Faculty and staff recognized at annual awards luncheon
Four faculty members and 14 retirees were honored May 13 for excellence and service to Elon.
Elon faculty members Cassie Kircher, Cindy Fair, Heather Scavone and Janet Myers were recognized May 13 for superior teaching, scholarship, service and mentoring at the annual faculty-staff awards luncheon in Alumni Gymnasium.
In addition, longtime employees of the university and retirees were recognized for their contributions to Elon.
Daniels-Danieley Award for Excellence in Teaching
Professor of English
Cassie Kircher is described by colleagues and students as a gifted teacher who is inspirational, patient and persistent.
“Whether she is trying to inspire a student to write a better draft of an essay or quietly seeking ways to fund and support the service-learning creative writing class she has long aspired to establish, Dr. Kircher doesn’t give up,” a colleague says.
As a professor of English and published essayist and nature writer, the majority of Kircher’s teaching is in creative writing, specifically nonfiction creative writing. But regardless of the level of the courses she teaches, Kircher is an attentive instructor and mentor. Students tout her as the reason they pursued graduate school or have confidence in their writing and research.
“I learned more in her classes than I learned in any other class at Elon, and during both semesters I was lucky enough to take a course with her, I could actually feel myself improving,” a former student says. “Her ability to break down famous works, lead insightful discussions and critique student writing until the heart of a piece is revealed all helped me improve my craft substantially.”
For many students, Kircher is the reason they stepped out of their comfort zones, applied what they learned and excelled.
“While I may not have been the most engaged student at all times, Cassie is a professor with the incredible ability to inspire a student,” a former student says. “She knew exactly when to question, when to prod, and when to push. She understands the psyche of a college students, but also knows when to challenge one.”
More than 70 sections of English 110, a core course, are offered to students every year, and Kircher regularly teaches it and participates in course design groups with colleagues to keep her teaching fresh.
“She knows how essential writing is for the success of every Elon student, whether they wish to pursue it as an art form, as she does, or if they perceive it more as a tool necessary for personal and professional success,” a colleague says.
In the more than 20 years she has spent at Elon, Kircher has served as a classroom teacher, student mentor and adviser. She also has held numerous leadership roles, including co-adviser to the Arts and Letters Living/Learning Community, co-chair of the Second Language Proficiency Committee, leader of the Liberal Arts Forum, adviser to Visions and Colonnades, faculty adviser for the Carret Essay Contest, CATL Scholar, Sustainability Faculty Scholar, Service-Learning Faculty Scholar as well as chair of the Academic Council.
She is the 43rd Elon faculty member to receive the award established by President Emeritus J. Earl Danieley ’46 and his late wife, Verona Daniels Danieley, in honor of their parents.
Distinguished Scholar Award
Professor of Human Service Studies
As a former social worker at the National Institutes of Health, Cindy Fair was very familiar with HIV/AIDS and its impact on children.
Since that time in the early 1990s, Fair, a professor of human service studies at Elon, has focused the bulk of her academic research on the changes in the HIV/AIDS epidemic over the past 20 years.
Her research has resulted in dozens of papers and book chapters published in well-respected academic publications. Her work has been well received in professional conferences. In addition, those interested in increasing their education or improving the quality of life of young people living with HIV have sought Fair’s expertise.
“Her continuous groundbreaking and stigma-reducing research has greatly contributed to the way the larger HIV/AIDS social and behavioral science fields view the psychosocial development for this often misunderstood and vulnerable population,” a colleague says.
As the drugs developed to treat HIV improved, the impact the disease had on families evolved and Fair’s extensive research reflects that. She has examined the stigma experienced by HIV-infected women and their uninfected family members as well as healthy HIV disclosure procedures. More recent work focuses on HIV-positive adolescents who are reaching adulthood and the challenges they face with dating, relationships and family planning.
“The health care transition literature is still in its infancy,” says a physician from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Research that seeks to develop indicators and care practices to successful transitions is extremely valuable as we strive to develop models of care that will promote the overall wellbeing of youth with chronic conditions as they move into young adulthood.”
Fair continues to extend her academic work and is currently collaborating with researchers in California to better understand the experiences of Hispanic adolescents living with HIV.
“Knowing her as well as I do, I can attest that her scholarship is driven by a genuine curiosity and her love for her field,” says an Elon colleague. “As is obvious from her CV, I believe, scholarship is not something she does because it is expected of her. She does it because that is who she is. The quality of everything she does—teaching, scholarship and service to the institution—are exemplary.”
Beyond the field of HIV, Fair has engaged in scholarship focused on different aspects of experiential education. She has examined programs where children engage in service learning and then write about the experience. “Without reflection service learning is simply service yet little research has explored reflection tools with young children, and I have greatly enjoyed this line of inquiry,” Fair says.
Fair also has helped her Elon students extensively with their undergraduate research. “I am forever indebted to Cindy’s mentorship,” says a former student. “She taught me how to ask good questions and to channel passion into productivity. Without her patience, enthusiasm, and skillfulness as a mentor, I would not be where I am today as a researcher.”
Fair is the 16th recipient of the Distinguished Scholar Award, which recognizes a faculty member whose research has earned peer commendation and respect, and who has made significant contributions to his or her field of study.
Periclean Award for Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility
Assistant Professor of Law
Personally and professionally, Heather Scavone, assistant professor of law and director of the Elon School of Law Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic, embodies the values of civic engagement and social responsibility.
Prior to joining Elon, Scavone directed the statewide Immigration Legal Services program of Lutheran Family Services in the Carolinas, which provided representation to hundreds of refugees and those seeking political asylum. When LSF announced plans to eliminate programs in the Triad, Scavone approached the university about adding the clinic to meet an overwhelming community need and to further the professional development of Elon Law students.
Since the clinic opened in 2010, more than 1,600 refugees and asylum seekers have been served under Scavone’s leadership, and it is one of North Carolina’s most prolific nonprofit immigration legal services providers.
“Through the inception of the of the Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic, Elon was able to successfully dovetail the mutual goals of legal skills development and community service into a clinical program that simultaneously broadens the global perspective of law students, increases their post-graduation employment prospects, and serves the community,” a colleague says.
Scavone says that Elon students who serve in the clinic benefit from “a perspective shift that is informed by their clients’ suffering.” Through the work at the clinic, students learn empathy towards others, and the experience creates in many of them desire to practice public interest law.
In addition to the clinic and the classroom, Scavone’s commitment to civic engagement and social responsibility is clear. “Only a few weeks ago during March 2015, Scavone led a group of six law students on an alternative Spring Break trip to represent immigrant women and children detained in a South Texas immigration detention center. The trip, which was envisioned and proposed by the students, was funded exclusively through the fundraising efforts of Scavone and her students,” a colleague says.
Scavone is the board chair of the New Arrivals Institute, a regional nonprofit that assists refugees. For the past four years, she has organized an immigration law seminar to increase opportunities for public interest lawyers, including Elon alumni, to receive immigration legal training. She has worked one-on-one with students to identify professional development opportunities during and after law school, and she has proposed and received approval for an interdisciplinary service-learning study abroad opportunity titled, “Ethiopia and Greensboro: Refugees and Human Rights.”
“As a public interest lawyer who has devoted her life to advocacy on behalf of refugees and asylum seekers, and as a teacher who cultivates in her students the desire to increase access to justice by the most vulnerable members of society, Heather is an excellent choice for this year’s award,” a colleague says.
Scavone is the 13th recipient of the Periclean Award for Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility, which is given each year to a member of Elon’s faculty or staff whose community service exemplifies the ideals of Project Pericles.
Ward Family Excellence in Mentoring Award
Professor of English
A full understanding of the scope and effectiveness of Janet Myers’ mentoring requires a global map.
Myers, a professor of English and coordinator of National and International Fellowships, has been so successful in mentoring students that there has been an exponential increase in the number of students applying for major awards and grants. Many of the students that Myers has mentored have gone on to be Fulbright recipients and, in February, The Chronicle of Higher Education named Elon as a top producer of Fulbright students.
“Although there are many people who have helped to make these opportunities possible for our students, few are as central to the process as Dr. Janet Myers,” a colleague says.
Myers started teaching at Elon in 2000 and served as the associate director of the Honors Program and fellowship adviser from 2004 to 2008. By 2008 her work as fellowship adviser increased significantly, and she was named coordinator of National and International Fellowships.
“She has used her warm support, incisive editorial eye and immense dedication to help Elon students in English and across the varied disciplines of the university aspire to extraordinary opportunities and achieve internationally recognized prominence,” a colleague says.
Students who apply for fellowships face stiff competition, and many, despite their accomplishments, will not receive them. “What Janet recognizes—and what can be difficult to remember in fellowship advising—is the value of the process for the individual students,” a colleague says. “Having someone work with them, one-on-one, for long periods of time, demonstrates that Elon cares about their development. It helps them develop a clear and demonstrable vision for their future. It makes them better writers, speakers and self-advocates. It prepares them to try, to potentially fail, and to try again.”
She inspires and motivates even under-confident students and is often a student’s greatest cheerleader. She pushes them to reach their full potential.
“Overall, due to her efforts, I was able to walk into my interview with months of preparation and present my best self in ways that I had never known before I met Dr. Myers,” says an Elon junior who applied for a fellowship. “… In all my time at Elon, there has been no professor or process that has forced me to think about and prepare for my future as much as Dr. Myers had with the Truman Scholarship.”
Myers is the eighth recipient of the Ward Family Excellence in Mentoring Award, which honors a faculty or staff member who demonstrates a commitment to Elon undergraduates through outstanding mentoring. The award was established by Tom and Beth Ward P ’05, ’08, ’14, their sons, A.T. ’05, Christopher ’08 and Chase ’14, and Tom Ward’s mother, Dorothy Mears Ward GP ’05, ’08, ’14.
Also honored for their years of service to Elon were the following staff and faculty who have retired this academic year or will do so at the end of the semester:
Dottie Barr—Switchboard Operator
Tracy Barr—Groundskeeper, Landscaping
Anne Bolin—Professor of Anthropology
Mary Alice Bragg—University Organist
Wayne Brown—Supervisor of Support Services, Environmental Services
Michael Calhoun—Professor of Health and Human Performance
Danny Cross—Maintenance Associate, Physical Plant
David Crowe—Professor of History
Bernice Foust—Program Assistant, Computing Sciences, Mathematics and Statistics
Gerry Francis—Executive Vice President
Mary Ingram—Custodian, Environmental Services
Alison Poliseno—Program Assistant, Campus Recreation
Vickie Somers—Director of Auxiliary Services
Carolynn Whitley—Program Assistant, Philosophy, Political Science and Religious Studies