Arts and Sciences awards faculty honors

Photos/Mike Lovett

(From left) Xing Hang, Marion Smiley, Laura Goldin, and Jonathan Sarna

The School of Arts and Sciences recognized several faculty members for excellence in teaching and mentoring at the April 3 faculty meeting.

Dean of Arts and Sciences Susan Birren presented Xing Hang with the Michael L. Walzer ’56 Award for Teaching; Marion Smiley with the Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer ’69 Prize for Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring; Laura Goldin with the Louis Dembitz Brandeis Prize for Excellence in Teaching; and Jonathan Sarna with the Dean of Arts and Sciences Mentoring Award.

Xing Hang, assistant professor of history, is the 32nd recipient of the Michael L. Walzer Award for Teaching, which is given to a tenure track faculty member who “combines superlative scholarship with inspired teaching.”

A Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude graduate of the University of Georgia, Hang earned his master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. He joined the Brandeis faculty in 2010.

Hang teaches courses on East Asian civilization, modern China, late imperial China, Chinese pirates, and Mao Tse Tung. He often incorporates digital technology, including Latte, YouTube, and online forums in his courses, the latter enables quiet students to express their opinions and ask questions. His research expertise is early modern China and Taiwan, the East Asian world order and Eurasian comparative history. His books include “Encyclopedia of National Anthems,” a co-edited volume entitled “Silk, Sea Rovers, and Samurai,” and his new book, “China among the Waves, the Zheng Maritime Empire in East Asia.”

He is an active member of the East Asian studies program and his department’s graduate admissions committee. Among other responsibilities, he has served as senior research/honors coordinator and as an advisor to first year students, majors, senior thesis candidates in history and international and global studies, and Ph.D. students.

Students in his classes call him approachable, knowledgeable, caring and engaging, and praise the sense of humor in his lectures and his ability to nurture their interest in history and research.
“Professor Xing Hang is a professor with a businessman’s elegance, a critic’s objectivity, a friend’s humor, an artist’s passion, an investment banker’s efficiency, a historian’s expertise, and a judge’s fairness,” wrote one student nominator. “His teaching satisfies, enlightens and improves his students, which I believe to be the best things a teacher can do.”

The award carries a $1,000 stipend.

Marion Smiley, the J.P Morgan Chase Professor of Ethics in the philosophy department, is this year’s recipient of the Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer ‘69 and Joseph Neubauer Prize for Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring. Established by Trustee Jeanette Lerman at the time of her marriage to Joseph Neubauer, the honor recognizes a faculty member who is an exceptional teacher, mentor and advisor, and a presence in the co-curricular and extracurricular life of students.

Smiley came to Brandeis in 2002 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She earned her bachelor’s degree in philosophy and politics at Mount Holyoke College and her doctorate degree in political philosophy at Princeton University.

Her courses include “Introduction to Ethics,” “Philosophy and Gender,” “Political Philosophy,” “What is Justice?” and graduate courses in philosophy and women’s and gender studies. Her research is in the field of moral, social and political philosophy. She is the author of “Moral Responsibility and the Boundaries of Community.” Her writing on collective moral responsibility and rethinking privacy has been published in political science, philosophy, women’s studies and law and policy journals.    

Smiley has advised, among others, first year students, senior honors candidates, students pursuing independent interdisciplinary majors, and politics graduate and undergraduate students writing dissertations and senior theses. Each year she is known to writes countless letters of recommendations. Her university service includes membership on the women’s and gender studies program’s core faculty, the graduate admissions committee for philosophy and women’s and gender studies, the Mandel Humanities Center, and the social justice and social policy committee.
“Professor Smiley embodies everything that this University is, and everything that it could ask for in a teacher,” according to one student nominator. “In the classroom her mastery of the material and her ability to both control class discussion and pique student interest are unmatched. She has made herself available for advice and assistance at all times, day and night. Professor Smiley has given me valuable advice on academics, class selection, job selection, what to do with my summers, what to do with my time after college, as well as life in general.”

The honor comes with a $5,000 stipend.

Laura Goldin, associate professor of the practice and internship director of the environmental studies program, is the 29th recipient of the Louis Dembitz Brandeis Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

Goldin earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Yale University and J.D. degree from Cornell Law School. Before joining the Brandeis faculty in 1996, she worked as an environmental attorney for almost 20 years in government, industry, public interest and private law practice, including as general counsel for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

Goldin’s courses involve students in real life, complex, multi-disciplinary environmental and environmental justice issues, while supporting sustained collaborations with community partners. This includes the Justice Brandeis Semester’s Environmental Health and Justice program, which requires students to delve into the law, policy, social impacts and science of current environmental health issues; work directly with low income neighborhoods from urban Boston and Waltham to rural mountain mining towns of Kentucky; and conduct an environmental health study of major concern. Her other courses include a first year JustBooks seminar, “Visions of the American Environment, Images to Action,”  “Greening the Ivory Tower,” and “Environmental Law and Policy.”

She is a member of several Brandeis committees, including the undergraduate curriculum committee, the independent interdisciplinary major committee, the Brandeis sustainability fund review, the teaching with technology committee and the experiential learning committee. Goldin serves as the undergraduate advising head for environmental studies, an advisor to first year students, majors, and senior thesis candidates and a mentor to Schiff Fellows.

“Her belief that Brandeis students have the power to change the world is evident through her actions,” one student wrote in nominating Goldin. “The number of students she advises is truly remarkable – the support she gives, listening, mentorship, and keen ability to help students find how they can best utilize their potential for social justice is unmatched. By focusing on experiential education, she uses the classroom as an opportunity not only for knowledge, but also empowerment.”

Her award carries a $1,000 stipend.

Jonathan Sarna is the 2014 recipient of the Dean of Arts and Sciences Mentoring Award. The Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, Sarna earned his bachelor’s degree at Brandeis and his doctorate degree from Yale University.

His scholarship is focused on American Jewish history and life and Jews in the Americas, as are the courses he teaches, including “The American Jewish Community in Historical Perspective,” “World Jewry since 1945,” “It Couldn’t Happen Here: Three American Anti-Semitic Episodes,” and “Judaism Confronts America.” Sarna has written, edited or co-edited more than 30 books, including the acclaimed “American Judaism: A History.”

He has held positions on numerous campus committees and organizations, including the academic priorities planning committee, the Gralla Fellowship Program for Journalists in the Jewish Press, the Ruderman Fellows Program, the Brandeis Distinguished Leaders Institute, and the
Presidential Task Force on Jewish Education.

Sarna has been widely praised by his students for his commitment to their academic growth and his help in preparing them for their career when the leave Brandeis.

“Professor Sarna has been my academic advisor for the past two years, and I could not have hoped for a better one,” student nominator wrote. “I took many classes with Professor Sarna, and I was thrilled to learn from him, not only about American Jewish history, but also about methods of historical investigation and analytical skills. Furthermore, Professor Sarna cares tremendously about his students’ careers and he provides very useful guidance about how to increase one’s chances of getting a job – either in or outside of academia. [He] has very high expectations for his students while being constantly generous and supportive.”

The honor includes a $1,000 stipend.

Categories: General, Humanities and Social Sciences

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