The President’s Awards for Distinguished Scholar-Teachers will be presented to four Georgetown University professors in recognition of their research and commitment to teaching students at the fall faculty convocation Oct. 23, the university announced last week.
The award is granted by the President’s Office after a nomination process by both students and faculty members. The accolade includes a $10,000 annual grant to the professors over three academic years to support their research.
Three Georgetown College professors received the award, including history professor John McNeill, Spanish and Portuguese professor Cristina Sanz, and linguistics professor Alison Mackey. Neuroscience professor Italo Mocchetti at the Georgetown University Medical Center was also honored.
These faculty members set themselves apart in their simultaneous commitment to their fields and to Georgetown itself, according to University President John J. DeGioia (CAS ’79, GRD ’95).
“Our awardees represent the very best of Georgetown: the blending of academic expertise, innovative research, and impactful pedagogy that draws out the ambitions and abilities of our students and faculty,” DeGioia said in a news release announcing the recipients.
The President’s Awards are part of President DeGioia’s initiative to support academic and social impact causes, according to the office’s website.
Georgetown College Dean Christopher Celenza was impressed by each of the College honoree’s embodiment of the values of the College, which he believes lie at the core of Georgetown’s history and identity, he said.
“I think all of them do a lot of things that are the ideals at Georgetown,” Celenza said in an interview with The Hoya. “All are very committed to advanced research in their fields. Yet, despite this research excellence and being recognized by their peers for all of this, with publications and grants and awards and so on, each one of them is still a very committed teacher as well.”
Finding the right balance between influential research and university teaching is an important part of the College’s mission, according to Celenza.
“We want to make sure our faculty members are leaders in their fields, but we are also so proud that they feel that interaction with students is very, very important,” Celenza said.
McNeill, one of the awardees, is the current President of the American Historical Association and has taught more than 3,000 students at Georgetown since he began as a professor in 1985. McNeill has earned multiple awards and fellowships throughout his career, including two Fulbright research awards and fellowships from the MacArthur Foundation and the Woodrow Wilson Center.
Apart from his accomplishments, the most rewarding aspects of his work are the lasting connections he has developed with certain Georgetown students, McNeill said.
“Most students, I believe, quickly forget most of their teachers, including me,” McNeill wrote in an email to The Hoya. “But some don’t, some stay in touch, and some get back in touch, out of the blue, after many years. I always appreciate that.”
Sanz, the current chair of the department of Spanish and Portuguese, conducts interdisciplinary research on second-language acquisition and multilingualism. Her studies center around methods of language learning and teaching including computerized instruction and immersion abroad.
In addition to her many scholarly accomplishments, teaching students is one of the most gratifying aspects of Sanz’s work at Georgetown, she said.
“I get to teach courses on the stuff that I conduct research on, so I can teach graduate seminars on the complicated variables that intervene, for good or bad, in the acquisition of another language,” Sanz said in an interview with The Hoya. “My research talks to my teaching, but my research also informs my practitioner hat.”
Seeing the effects that her teaching can have on students is incredibly fulfilling, according to Mackey.
“Students frequently use methods, approaches and techniques they learned about in this class in their master’s papers and dissertation work, often flawlessly because they piloted and worked out issues in the methods class,” Mackey wrote.
All of Mackey’s colleagues represent the values the Georgetown community is committed to, which makes the award even more special, she said.
“I am in awe of my wonderful, talented and caring colleagues, how much they know, and how much they are prepared to give to their work at Georgetown, how seriously they take the business of educating our students—all this exemplifies cura personalis for me,” Mackey wrote. “Being selected for this award by a committee of my colleagues is the greatest recognition and reward for my life’s work I could hope for.”
This article was edited Oct. 11 to correct a misattribution.