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Annual Report 2022: Faculty Excellence

Martin Espada receiving a standing ovation from an audience

Faculty Excellence

Profoundly dedicated to HFA students, our eminent faculty are creative thinkers and doers who develop original and thought-provoking programs that promote rigorous intellectual exchange about the most pressing issues of today and tomorrow.

College Outstanding Teaching Award:Ray Kinoshita Mann

Faculty Excellence

College Outstanding Teaching Award:Ray Kinoshita Mann

In recognition of exceptional teaching, mentoring, curriculum development efforts, and her impact on students' lives, Ray Kinoshita Mann—professor in the Department of Architecture—was presented with the 2022 College Outstanding Teacher Award.

Teaching at UMass Amherst since 1995, Mann is a compassionate and empathetic educator sensitive to those with unique learning needs and students with disabilities. Mann will often go out of her way to help students who need extra support outside the classroom while inspiring and encouraging them to take risks and stretch their skills beyond what they thought were their limits.

Mann has developed a deep slate of classroom studio topics related to the public good. She worked with students to develop a community center for the Nipmuc Tribe in central Massachusetts and on the adaptation and re-use of abandoned structures in Springfield and Holyoke as therapeutic spaces for Alzheimer’s patients.

Martín Espada Garners National Book Award

Faculty Excellence

Martín Espada Garners National Book Award

“Martín Espada is one of the most important poets of his generation, and with good reason. His poignant and powerful work touches our souls. He is a shining light in the arts and humanities on our campus, and his extraordinary writing and commitment to social justice is an inspiration throughout the world.”

—Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy

English professor and poet Martín Espada won the National Book Award for his book Floaters, a collection of poetry that runs from scathing socio-political commentary to homages of family and love.

Floaters takes its title from a term used by certain Border Patrol agents to describe migrants who drown trying to cross the Rio Grande at the U.S./Mexico border. The title poem responds to the viral photograph of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and Angie Valeria, a Salvadoran father and daughter who drowned in the Río Grande.

Espada’s work bears witness to confrontations with anti-immigrant bigotry as a tenant lawyer years ago, and today he sings the praises of Central American adolescents kicking soccer balls over a barbed wire fence in an internment camp founded, he says, on that same bigotry. He also believes that times of hate call for poems of love—even in the voice of a cantankerous Galápagos tortoise.

Gretchen Gerzina
Spotlight Scholar

Gretchen Gerzina

For her outstanding research and creativity, Gerzina was named the UMass Amherst Spotlight Scholar for the Fall 2021 semester. “She has had an extraordinarily productive career,” says Randall Knoper, chair of the Department of English, praising her accomplishments in research and writing. “And she shows no signs of slowing down.”

Gerzina has dedicated her career to illuminating the lives of others as the author or editor of nine influential books, with two more in progress. Her work, which is both exacting and visionary, brings to light unknown facets of the lives of well-known figures as well as the lives of those overlooked by history.

Her prowess is widely acknowledged: Gerzina has received a Fulbright Scholar award and two National Endowment for the Humanities grants. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2017 and to the American Antiquarian Society in 2019, and is in demand as a speaker, panelist, and podcaster in the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

Gerzina calls herself an accidental biographer. Her first book, Carrington: A Life, grew from her PhD thesis and told the story of the English painter Dora Carrington, associated with the Bloomsbury group early in the 20th century. The novelist Meg Wolitzer says the book is “as full of idiosyncrasy, pleasure, and pathos as real life.”

Gerzina is candid about the struggle of writing biography. The intensive research, deep thinking, and imagination she brings to each project make it a complicated endeavor, even as she has become an acknowledged expert in it, having chaired the jury for the Pulitzer Prize for biography. Each of her books poses unique challenges. “The things you think you know about

telling a life don’t always hold true because lives are tricky things,” she says. “The truth is going to be different for every biographer. I love that aspect of the work.”

Juana Valdés Named Latinx Artist Fellow

The Mellon Foundation and the Ford Foundation announced the newest cohort of the Latinx Artist Fellowship, among them Juana Valdés, associate professor in the UMass Amherst Department of Art. This multi-year initiative administered by the US Latinx Art Forum (USLAF) in collaboration with the New York Foundation for the Arts recognizes annually 15 of the most compelling Latinx visual artists working in the United States today and aims to address a systemic lack of support, visibility, and patronage of Latinx visual artists—individuals of Latin American or Caribbean descent, born or living in the United States.

FacultyWorks Launched

Monika Schmitter, professor and chair of the History of Art and Architecture department, was joined by Patricia Fortini Brown (Princeton University), David Young Kim (University of Pennsylvania), and Marjorie Rubright (UMass Kinney Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies) to discuss her latest book The Art Collector in Early Modern Italy: Andrea Odoni and his Venetian Palace (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021). This discussion was the first in the college’s FacultyWorks series, which seeks to explore and amplify original work by HFA faculty.

Faculty Excellence

Distinguished Teaching Awards

Jennifer Fronc, professor of history, and Mazen Naous, professor of English, were recognized by the Center for Teaching and Learning as winners of the 2021–2022 Distinguished Teaching Award. Since 1961, the UMass Amherst has presented the Distinguished Teaching Award to instructors who demonstrate exemplary teaching at the highest institutional level. This highly competitive and prestigious campus-wide honor is the only student-initiated award on campus.

Conti Fellowship

Banu Subramaniam, professor of women, gender, sexuality studies, was awarded a Conti Fellowship from the Office of Research and Engagement. The fellowship acknowledges the high quality and importance of a faculty member’s accomplishments in research and creative activity at UMass Amherst and their potential for continuing excellence.

Subramaniam’s research explores the philosophy, history, and culture of the natural sciences and medicine as they relate to gender, race, ethnicity, and caste. This Conti Fellowship will enable Professor Subramaniam to complete her book, Decolonizing Botany: Empire and the Environmental Humanities, which will address calls to “decolonize” botanical science.

Top: English professor Martín Espada speaks at Old Chapel.

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