Fulbright College Announces 2024 Annual Faculty Teaching and Research Awards

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The Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the U of A has named the 2024 recipients of some of its top annual teaching and research faculty awards. Each recipient was chosen for their continuous and remarkable accomplishments within their respective fields.

"These awardees are among the most impressive and dedicated faculty members in our college, and each embodies the ideal trifecta of teaching, research and service," said Kathryn Sloan, outgoing interim dean of Fulbright College. "Each has positively impacted numerous lives through their hard work and dedication."

"On behalf of the entire college, I extend a heartfelt congratulations to each recipient for this and all of their remarkable achievements," Sloan added. "We eagerly anticipate their continued success and are excited to see what their future endeavors will be."


The college honors up to three outstanding teachers annually, and selection is based on a letter of nomination, teaching evaluations and documentation about the nominee's teaching activities.

The 2024 recipients include:

Edmund Harriss, assistant professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences

"Edmund Harriss understands the potential beauty of mathematical sciences," said Matt Clay, chair of the Department of Mathematical Sciences. "His efforts inspire an interdisciplinary appreciation for the work of our department, and I want to congratulate him on the achievement of this honor."

Harriss has devoted his time at the university to numerous collaborative research efforts, such as creating mathematical art, including two coloring books featuring math-centered designs. He often collaborates with the School of Art and other colleges across the university, and his research also delves into digital manufacturing technologies. Additionally, Harriss has developed software with applications in Computer Numerical Control (CNC) and 3D printing for artistic, architectural and educational purposes.

"Harriss' work expands the definition of mathematics and works towards a more expansive understanding of the applications of STEM fields," Clay added. 

Brenda Magnetti, teaching assistant professor, T.A. supervisor and basic Spanish program coordinator for the Department of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures

"Brenda Magnetti is integral to our Spanish program here at the university," said Linda Jones, chair of the Department of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures. "Her dedication to instructional excellence is exceptional, and our department has been greatly improved by her efforts."

Magnetti's research and teaching interests encompass a wide, multifaceted exploration of education, focusing on the professional development of teachers, curriculum design, instructional methodologies and more. She has taught all four basic Spanish courses and an array of additional advanced Spanish offerings along with facilitating the online, self-paced versions of all these courses. 

"This Outstanding Teacher award adds to Brenda's ongoing history of excellence, including previous honors like Outstanding Mentor and Recognition for Outstanding Service as a Teaching Assistants Supervisor," Jones added. 

Kelly Hammond, associate professor in the Department of History and associate director of the International and Global Studies Program.

"Dr. Hammond is an integral part of the International and Global Studies program and has overseen its success over the past year. Her passion and dedication to the INST Program manifests itself not only through her teaching and research but also her service to the academic field as well as study abroad," said Ryan Calabretta Sajder, the program's director. 

"Dr. Hammond is a student-centered professor, who welcomes students to actively participate in class, challenging them to think critically," he added.

Hammond teaches a variety of courses about modern East Asia and is the author of China's Muslims and Japan's Empire: Centering Islam in World War II, with two additional works in progress. 

"Dr. Hammond's teaching represents some of the best of what we do in the Department of History," said Caree Banton, chair of the department. "She brings her research with the real-world examples of state departments, military officials, and other folks tackling real-world problems into the classroom, which not only makes gaining knowledge about important issues exciting but also meaningful to students." 


The honor is awarded to up to three outstanding researchers. Awardees are chosen based on a nomination letter, the nominee's research accomplishments documented in a one-page summary of his or her research outlining its importance, a list of 10 publications, supporting evidence of exceptional performance in research, his or her curriculum vitae and an evaluation by the departmental chairperson.

The 2024 recipients include:

Ryan Neville-Shepard, associate professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Communication

"Ryan's work within the field of modern political rhetoric has supported our departmental efforts to bridge the fields of humanities and social sciences," said Ron Warren, former chair of the Department of Communication. "The recognition of Outstanding Researcher reflects Ryan's dedication to the department and his work enhancing the definition of communication through his innovative efforts." 

Neville-Shepard teaches an array of classes in both rhetoric and politics, including argumentation, political communication, presidential rhetoric, free speech and propaganda, and many more. Additionally, his research and works have been featured in prominent publications like The Washington Post, Politico, TIME Magazine, USA Today and The Conversation.

"I'm thrilled that the university is recognizing Ryan's invaluable research, and we all look forward to his continued contributions to the department and field of communication," Warren added. 

Mahmoud Moradi, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

"Mahmoud has spearheaded groundbreaking research in the field of physical chemistry, significantly enriching our department," said Colin David Heyes, chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. "Under his leadership, the Biomolecular Simulations Lab has continuously delivered outstanding work, fostering collaborative endeavors among undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral scholars."

Moradi conducts innovative research on how proteins function when their shapes are changed, uncovering how to mimic these changes using detailed computer simulations of the molecular dynamics. His instructional interests also span various courses, including a physical chemistry lab, quantum chemistry, chemical kinetics and statistical thermodynamics. 

"Mahmoud's work has been recognized repeatedly by both the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, and I know this most recent award will springboard his continued successes both within the department and within his greater field," Heyes added. 

Marcia Shobe, professor in the School of Social Work

"Marcia's research spans the areas of child, adolescent and family well-being, particularly as it relates to health disparities for traditionally underserved populations and anti-poverty initiatives," said Johanna Marie Thomas, director of the School of Social Work. "Her work has a tangible effect not only within our program, but within the larger communities she supports."

Shobe has conducted studies related to health behaviors and health literacy among several low-income populations. She likewise has experience managing multiple large research and training grants, disseminating findings through peer-reviewed publications and presentations, and collaborating with interdisciplinary researchers and practitioners. 

"Dr. Shobe has been integral to the education and training of several cohorts of graduate social work students and practitioners, and her extensive work managing incoming grant funds has facilitated the graduate education of countless of these social work alumni," Thomas added. 


This award recognizes excellence within Fulbright College, honoring a distinguished instructor for their dedication to educational advancement. Recipients are carefully selected based upon letters of nomination from colleagues, authorities, peers and students, as well as a comprehensive review of their curriculum vitae and supplementary teaching engagements.

The 2024 recipient is:

Matt Gerner, instructor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

"Matt's work has been recognized by the U of A Doctoral Academy, the National Science Foundation and the University of Arkansas, and I want to commend him for the honor of his Outstanding Instructor distinction," said Colin David Heyes, chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. "His research into the fields of microelectronics and photonics has propelled the prestige of the department."

Gerner leads an array of chemistry courses at the university, including fundamentals of chemistry, honors and regular sections of university chemistry and organic chemistry I and II. He has also developed an extensive database of chemistry tutorial and sample problem videos on his personal YouTube channel.

"Matt has helped to facilitate a well-rounded chemistry education for countless students here at the university, and our department has greatly benefitted from his dedicated efforts," Heyes added. 


This award recognizes a faculty member's exceptional contributions to the departmental or college advising program. Awardees are chosen based on a letter of recommendation from someone who is acquainted with the candidate's work as an advisor, along with letters of support from colleagues and former students.

The 2024 recipient is: 

Leigh Sparks, teaching associate professor and assistant director of graduate programing for the Department of English

"I have been consistently impressed with Leigh's dedication to our students and her ability to inspire success from those around her," said Yajaira Padilla, chair of the Department of English. "Countless students have benefited from her dedication to her work and regard for all those around her." 

Sparks' research centers primarily around literature written by incarcerated or re-entering populations, as well as issues relating to graduate advising in the humanities. Additionally, she teaches courses on American prisoners and returning citizens, rhetoric and composition studies, and American and world literatures. 

"Leigh continually raises the bar for active faculty involvement in student affairs and has greatly improved our campus community through her dedication to research and teaching excellence, preparing students for careers in a wide range of professional fields," Padilla added.


This award is given to a Fulbright College graduate assistant in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the teaching mission of the college and university. Awardees are chosen based on a letter of nomination, a recommendation by the departmental chairperson, assessments of classroom visitations and other types of departmental review, his or her curriculum vitae, letters of support from faculty and peers as well as current and former students, a list of courses taught at the university and a summary of student evaluations for each course.

The 2024 recipient is:

A.G. Holdier, Ph.D. candidate and graduate assistant in the Department of Philosophy and the Public Policy Program.

In addition to pursuing two Ph.D.s, Holdier is a member of the Conceptual Foundations of Conflict Project, the Machine Intelligence and Normative Theory (MINT) Lab and the Policy Research Collaboratory. His work includes projects on algorithmic bias, context collapse and "fake news," with a focus on practical applications of philosophical conclusions.

"A.G. Holdier is a changemaker in the Public Policy program, and I commend him for this honor," said Brinck Kerr III, director of the Public Policy Program.


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