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Faculty of Arts Awards and Celebration of Excellence 2018

Annual event set for Thursday, May 3 in EEEL Building


Amanda Melin is one of this year's Faculty of Arts Awards recipients. Photo by Riley Brandt

By Heath McCoy
April 16, 2018

Once a year the Faculty of Arts honours a few of its best and brightest teachers, researchers, staff members, champions of internationalization and outstanding alumni at the Faculty of Arts Awards and Celebration of Excellence.

It’s become a staple of the academic year — a chance to reflect on the diversity and scope of learning and innovation in this faculty, while also reflecting back on another year of remarkable achievements.

Here is a list of this year’s winners:

Established Scholar Research Award – Alex Bierman (Sociology)
Always a prolific researcher, since 2016 alone Bierman has published a dozen papers in peer-reviewed outlets. These papers range in topics from adolescent pornography use to pain in older adults to the stress of civilians working in active war zones. The latter paper informed briefings by both NATO and the U.S. Department of Defense. Bierman also sits on the editorial boards of journals dedicated to aging and the sociology of religion. 

New Scholar Research Award – Jack Lucas (Political Science)
In just under three years since he joined us at the University of Calgary Lucas has established a national and international reputation for excellence in the field of urban politics. He has set the standard of an outstanding emerging scholar, scoring major grants and fellowships, winning international awards and publishing high profile works, including a book and articles in prominent academic journals. He has also shared his expertise with the public, emerging as a media voice during the 2017 mayoral/municipal election, wherein he took part in local and national interviews with PostMedia News, the CBC and the Globe and Mail, among many other outlets.

New Scholar Research Award – Amanda Melin (Anthropology and Archaeology)
With research focused on questions of sensory and dietary ecology and primate evolution, Melin has established herself as a star in her field. A tier two Canada Research Chair with a cross appointment to the Cummings School of Medicine, she has fostered a network of collaborations spanning Canada, the U.S., Europe and Japan. Along with professor Linda Fedigan and Kathy Jack from Tulane University she co-directs the Santa Rosa project, a world renowned site for the study of primate behavioral ecology. She has also established a genomics laboratory at this university, for which she’s secured a Canada Foundation for Innovation grant of $750,000.

New Scholar Research Award – Lucija Muehlenbachs (Economics)
An internationally recognized rising star in the field of environmental and resource economics, Muehlenbachs has been ranked in the top 10 per cent of women economists in the world. She is internationally recognized for her work in understanding the economic role of fossils fuels in the economy and she is a sought out speaker regarding the Alberta economy and the extraction of oil and gas in Canada. As Department of Economics head Rob Oxoby aptly puts it, she is “unequivocally one of the strongest young economists in the profession.”

Established Teacher Award – Lucia Vojtassak (Economics)
Among the broad array of classes Vojtassak teaches in the Department of Economics are intermediate courses in mathematical economics and econometrics, which are some of the most difficult undergraduate courses in the department. The USRI scores in these classes are notoriously low, however, when taught by Vojtassak, student ratings in those courses are always well above the historical average. This speaks to the great quality of her teaching. She has also addressed the issue of a low number of women in economics and she’s taken steps to rectify the problem, acting as an important mentor to emerging female economists.

New Teacher Award – Simon Spanswick (Psychology)
As an instructor in the neuroscience stream of psychology, Spanswick is developing two new courses, including the Neuroscience of Learning and Memory, which fills a gap he identified in the curriculum, and Research Methods in Brain and Behaviour, which provides students with an in-depth understanding of neuroscience research methods. He was also instrumental in creating the popular Human Sexuality course and he is constantly challenging his students intellectually in courses like Drugs and Behaviour and Behavioral Neuroscience. He is a sought after mentor for undergraduate and graduate students.

New Teacher Award – Samantha Thrift (Communication, Media and Film)
An instructor in the Department of Communication, Media and Film, Thrift has distinguished herself with the impressive range of classes she teaches, including courses on communications theory, pop culture, feminist media studies, video activism, media and memory, cold war culture and new media. She works hard to build a rapport with students in every one of these classes that balances challenge with care. Thrift has a bright future as both a teacher and researcher.

Leadership in Internationalization – Hendrik Kraay (History)
As a professor of Latin American history over the last 20 years, Kraay’s work has considerably enhanced UCalgary’s international footprint. He served as director of the highly regarded Latin American Research Centre at a critical juncture in its development and he’s been committed to promoting opportunities for international collaborations and research partnerships between UCalgary and Brazil. He has been a true mentor to Canadian and Brazilian students alike.

Outstanding Staff Recognition Award (Team) – Arts Students’ Centre
Providing excellent service and support to more than 7,000 undergraduate students in the Faculty of Arts while also accommodating the needs of all faculty members and staff, the team in the Arts Students’ Centre are critical to this faculty. They work collaboratively and collegially in a strong, effective manner that positively impacts students, administrative staff and academic staff. The team of Rachel Bruce (manager), Perlea Ashton (undergraduate program specialist), Henrietta Clark (senior undergraduate program specialist), Kerry Jayson (academic assistant), Sara Deabler (receptionist and academic assistant), Kelly Kay Spurlock, Carly Gheseger, Nikki Mak, Aideen O’Toole, Rachel Owen (program advisors), Mandy Foley and Tianni Song (education coordinators) couldn’t be more deserving of this staff award.

Outstanding Staff Recognition Award (Individual) – Monika Davidson
As undergraduate program advisor in Anthropology and Archaeology – a department that offers five distinctive undergraduate programs – Davidson has her work cut out for her each and every day. And yet she meets and exceeds the demands of her job, advising students in fields as diverse as socio-cultural anthropology, biological anthropology, archaeology and development studies. She’s well known as a caring advisor to the undergraduates and often establishes a rapport with them that lasts for years.

Outstanding Staff Recognition Award (Individual) – Erin Lowden
In her role as the Faculty of Arts office assistant Lowden is the first face of service for anyone who walks into the Dean’s office and those who do are always met with high degree of professionalism, respect and a warm smile. Lowden has a wide range of administrative responsibilities and, because she is organized, proactive and diligent, she accomplishes all her tasks with ultimate efficiency.

Celebrated Alumni Award – Michael Burak
Burak graduated from the Faculty of Arts in 2012 with two BA’s in Linguistics and Languages and Spanish, respectively. During his time on campus he founded the University of Calgary Translation Association which became the inspiration for the successful business he runs today. Burak is founder and CEO of Languages in Motion Ltd, a company dedicated to providing certified translators and interpreters for individuals, small-medium size businesses and large corporations, with the ability to provide service in 65 languages.

Celebrated Alumni Award – Valerie Pruegger
An alumna of the Faculty of Arts, Pruegger earned her honours BA and an MSc in psychology before ultimately going on to do her PhD in industrial/organizational psychology and cross cultural psychology at Queen’s University. She eventually returned to UCalgary as an assistant professor in psychology. Throughout her career Pruegger has worked tirelessly to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in our community. Among her positions, she has served as executive director of the Calgary Multicultural Centre, diversity education consultant for the Calgary Police, and as a research social planner for the City of Calgary. She is currently the director of the University of Calgary’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Protected Disclosure.

RSVP here for the 2018 Faculty of Arts Awards and Celebration of Excellence.