Talent and creativity

Winner of the Distinguished Faculty Award, Anne Kugler explains how fellow professors inspire her to keep growing.


First, thanks to my department, especially Matt Berg and Dan Kilbride, who went to the trouble of putting together the nomination materials for the Distinguished Faculty Award. I am deeply touched and honored they would do such a thing. More about the history department later. Thanks to the Provost’s Office and every person in it, and particularly to my past boss, Lauren Bowen, and my current boss, Jim Krukones, for their leadership and creativity; and to my past administrative assistant, Marianne Cicirelli, and my current assistant, Eileen Egan, for their competence and patience; and a special shout-out to Eileen for being on top of things when I have completely lost track, which happens often in April. Thanks and nods of appreciation to my current faculty council colleagues, Karen Gygli and Sheri Young, who share officer duty with me; and to the council committee chairs – Barbara D’Ambrosia, who tires me out with her work ethic, and Marc Kirschenbaum, Roy Day, Dwight Hahn, Abdul Imam, Sheila McGinn, and Tom Short, who regularly impress me with their conscientiousness.

I would also like to acknowledge the support and example of my parents, who pretty much embody integrity and thoughtfulness – theirs is a high bar to which to aspire. And I want to express my particular appreciation to my husband, Stacy, and my daughters, Caitlyn and Isabel. I read and hear so much about women in the professional world who are stymied, undercut, or not supported by their immediate families. I cannot express how grateful I am that this has never been the case for me. The idea that as a human being, I can expect to aim for whatever my own capabilities allow, has been liberating and, I regret to say, probably unusual. I am so grateful.

Thanks also to my students, past and present, who are the chief joy of this job. I am privileged every day to help them learn, manage their current lives and prepare for their futures. I am constantly rewarded by witnessing their growth and achievements.

During my time at John Carroll, the example of my colleagues has prodded me to work hard and inspired me to keep growing as a professor. So many of the faculty here at John Carroll do such creative, exciting things in the classroom, in their scholarly lives, and in service. They do it so often and as a matter of course I feel compelled to point out a few recent examples of what it is about my peers at that keeps me constantly reaching for my A-game. This is just a sampling from the past year or so that I have been privileged to witness or hear about (they are in no particular order):

There’s Gerry Guest, whose discussion of his research about medieval notions of masculine beauty at a scholarly lunch recalled to me (as I wallowed in administrative duties) the joy and the value of exploring an idea. There’s his colleague, Bo Liu, whose talk about images of women in the Song Dynasty impelled me to return to my office and look for parallels in my own understanding about women in the Enlightenment and reminded me to be alive to the possibility of cross-disciplinary inspiration.

There’s Rebecca Drenovsky, whose thriving lab reminds me to ask myself if I am doing enough to help students realize their potential as investigators in any field, and if I am doing enough to realize and bring to reality the possibilities for research collaboration.

There’s Carrie Buchanan, whose development and mentoring of student web-based projects, and similarly, Megan Thornton, whose work arranging Skype sessions between students at John Carroll and students in Latin America, urges me to be alive to the possibilities of new technologies as they unfold.

There’s Yi Shang, whose findings on the statistical issues infesting the value added measurement of student achievement reminded me of the immediacy of many of the problems we address in our research and prompted me to try to emulate her explanatory skills as a teacher who could make a statistical argument comprehensible and gripping to a historian of the 18th century like me.

There’s Jenna Drenten, who just supported, badgered, and mentored her students to an excellent showing in an advertising competition in which the teams to beat were from research one schools, inspiring me to be ambitious and to insist on top quality.

There’s Dianna Taylor and Mariana Ortega, who invited me to one of those afternoons of discussion with a Shula Lecture guest speaker that are so reenergizing they induce me to remember that chances to think and talk like this are how we keep our brains alive and questioning and that I need to make more of them.

There’s Graciela Lacueva, whose effort at mentoring women in the sciences goes well beyond the doors of John Carroll to serving on the national steering committee for the NSF Advance ASAP project to network and mentor women faculty in STEM fields, pushing me to think of my responsibilities to my profession and gender.

There’s Pam Mason, whose elegant, clear prose in her work about Rousseau and Geneva made my jaw drop as it brought to mind the best examples of grand narrative tradition of historical writing and impelled me to aim higher in my own prose style.

There’s Susan Long, whose publications are not only substantial over the long haul, but disgustingly current, as in her 2012 article “Bodies, Technologies, and Aging in Japan,” in which she breaks new ground on material culture and the elderly, prodding me to branch out, be attuned to the cutting edge of developments in my field, and become adventurous.

As I said, this is just a sampling of colleagues, who, in one setting or another, set a standard of excellence in their work lives that pushes me to try and keep up. Most especially, I gain daily inspiration from my colleagues in the Department of History who have set such a high bar for professionalism, passion, and productivity throughout the years. I aim to emulate:

• Dan Kilbride’s spectacular scholarship record (monographs, essay collections, journal articles, book reviews – he does it all);
• Matt Berg’s challenging-yet- compassionate teaching (students describe their experience in his courses with such pride of having accomplished what he demanded of them);
• David Robson’s encyclopedic and ever- expanding command of the literature of American History;
• Maria Marsilli’s take-no-prisoners preparation of our senior majors’ and honors students in presentation skills so they can go out in the world able to communicate effectively;
• Bob Kolesar’s insistence on critically evaluating and reevaluating what we do and don’t do for our students in our major curriculum, methods, and capstone courses;
• Roger Purdy’s advance scouting for students on his study tours so they can come away with experiences specifically tailored to their research projects;
• Malia McAndrew’s resourcefulness when collecting and deploying primary sources for her students and getting them to talk to each other in class;
• the Marian Morton gold standard of scholarship and integrity; and
• Pat Hoffman’s patience, efficiency, and good cheer.

All of these examples, and additional ones from history department members George Vourlojianis, Jack Patton, Bari Stith, Mike Bowen, and Matthew Zarzezcny, remind me daily how much talent and creativity there is at John Carroll and regularly inspire me to keep working, thinking, and trying new things so I can stand tall in the company of my colleagues.

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