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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown President Awards Four Distinguished Professors for Classroom Contributions, Research

The Georgetown University Office of the President announced the four winners of the 2024 President’s Awards for Distinguished Scholar-Teachers March 15. 

Faculty nominated the 2024 winners — Finance Professor Reena Aggarwal, Biology Professor Sarah Stewart Johnson, Neuroscience Professor Kathleen Anne Maguire-Zeiss and History Professor Adam Rothman — last fall for the award, which has recognized the role of full-time faculty professors who teach students on campus and contribute to the Georgetown community since 2013. Alison Mackey, a 2019 honoree and the chair of the linguistics department, chaired the committee of professors and former winners who selected the finalists, considering their impact on fields like research and mentoring. 

University President John J. DeGioia (CAS ’79, GRD ’95) honored each of the four winners at the Spring Faculty Convocation on March 20.

“We’re grateful to each of you for your many contributions to our university community,” DeGioia said at the convocation. “Thank you for demonstrating the extraordinary possibilities that come when we bring together our teaching and research.”

Aamir Jamil/The Hoya | The Georgetown University community recognized the four winners of the President’s Awards for Distinguished Scholar-Teachers, an award that honors full-time faculty members’ research and role as a professor, announced March 15 and honored March 19 at the Spring Faculty Convocation.

Johnson, who also teaches in the Science Technology and International Affairs (STIA) program, said she did not expect to receive the award due to the strength of Georgetown’s faculty. 

“I feel totally floored by the news, and deeply grateful to everyone involved in nominating and selecting me,” Johnson wrote to The Hoya. “There are so many wonderful scholars and teachers at Georgetown—I feel like this very easily could have gone to any number of friends and colleagues.”

Johnson is also a visiting scientist with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), specifically at the Goddard Space Flight Center, which focuses on the technology of studying the Earth, sun and universe. At Georgetown, Johnson incorporates this extraterrestrial expertise into her research on biosignatures, or evidence of life, on the planets.

Rothman is the inaugural director of the Center for the Study of Slavery and Its Legacies, a program that started in September 2023 and produces scholarship that explores the history and modern impacts of enslavement at Georgetown and beyond. 

Rothman said that because it can be seemingly difficult to simultaneously conduct research and teach, the award recognizes the balance between the two. 

“It shows that my colleagues appreciate the work I’ve been doing— in collaboration with many others around Georgetown— to bring what we’ve learned about our school’s own history into the classroom and to teach it in a meaningful way,” Rothman wrote to The Hoya. “The award honors the synergy between research and teaching, two vital aspects of faculty life that are sometimes in tension with each other. But they can feed off of each other, too.”

The award also endows the winners with a $10,000 grant for three academic years to support their scholarship. 

Maguire-Zeiss is the chair of neuroscience at the Georgetown University Medical Center, where her research, frequently funded through National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants, examines the brain’s response to different proteins. 

She said she plans to allocate the grant money for further research in her lab, specifically involving the pathologies of neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). 

“Our ultimate goal is to improve brain health and to help patients,” Maguire-Zeiss wrote to The Hoya. 

Aggarwal is the Robert E. McDonough Professor of Finance and the director of the Psaros Center for Financial Markets and Policy, a center that promotes discussion and debates of financial policy and economic decision-making. She said the award is meaningful to her because it illustrates her continued mentoring of current and former students. 

“I believe that my interaction with students does not start and end in the classroom,” Aggarwal wrote to The Hoya. “For so many, the career advice continues long after they have graduated. I am in a unique position because of my involvement in the practical world of finance and also policy, both Georgetown strengths. Students trust me to help inform important decisions about their future, which is not something I take lightly.”

Maguire-Zeiss, who previously served as a resident minister in Village C East and is involved in facilitating Ignatian spiritual retreats, said her work would be impossible without the support of her students, colleagues and the Georgetown community. 

“I just hope to be a good example to students, faculty and staff— they enrich my life, and I want to do the same for them,” Maguire-Zeiss wrote. “Georgetown is a special place, and for me, it definitely feels like ‘home.’” 

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