Cornell University President Hunter Rawlings has named the 1997 Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellows, honoring effective, inspiring and distinguished teaching of undergraduate students.
The honorees, announced at a May 24 dinner on campus, are Joan Jacobs Brumberg, professor of human development and family studies and of women's studies; Debra Ann Castillo, professor of Romance studies and of comparative literature; David Feldshuh, professor of theater, film and dance; and Clifford Pollock, the Ilda and Charles Lee Professor of Engineering.
The awards -- $25,000 each over five years -- are named for the retiring chairman of the Cornell Board of Trustees, Stephen H. Weiss '57, who endowed the program. Each year the Weiss Presidential Fellows Selection Committee seeks nominations from junior and senior students, faculty and academic staff for the distinguished fellowships, from which the committee selects a half-dozen candidates for the president's final selections.
Candidates, nominated by juniors and seniors, faculty or academic staff, are screened each winter and spring by a committee headed by the secretary of the faculty. Final decisions are made by the president.
Fellows carry their titles as long as they stay at Cornell and may hold them concurrently with other named professorships. This year's honorees came highly recommended, as indicated by these short biographies taken from their nominations:
Joan Jacobs Brumberg
Brumberg teaches in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS). As a historian among social scientists, she calls herself a "missionary for history." She educates not only her students but her colleagues on the historical context of human and family development.
A measure of her success is that students report that her classes had an impact on the way they thought about themselves, their families and their communities. A colleague writes: "Students praise her courses for their engaging and challenging content and for the new perspectives they offer . . . they praise her for the attention she gives to their writing and describe her as a role model for female students."
Since the fall of 1992, Brumberg has been director of undergraduate education for HDFS; she has also become de facto adviser for large numbers of students. Her door is always open, and students who can't find their regular adviser turn to her.
She received her Ph.D. from the University of Virginia and her B.A. cum laude from the University of Rochester. In addition to numerous articles, she has written three books, including Fasting Girls: The Emergence of Anorexia Nervosa as a Modern Disease, which received the Berkshire Book Prize from the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians among other awards. Her forthcoming book, The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls, to be published by Random House, is an alternate selection for the Book of the Month Club.
Debra Ann Castillo
Castillo is that ideal all great universities seek -- a brilliant scholar and a committed teacher. A list of her publications covers many pages and ranges across her favorite subjects: Latin American, Spanish and Latina women writers and feminist and postcolonial theory. Her reputation as a scholar is international; she is the president of the international organization La Asociaci—n de Literatura Femenina Hisp‡nica. She has been invited to lecture in Taiwan, Argentina and Mexico, as well as Cambridge Univeristy and the University of Costa Rica.
Believing that learning takes place outside the classroom, she also has served on the Language House Program Executive Board (1987-90) and been adviser to La Organizaci—n de Latinas Universitarias (1993-95) and to Sigma Lambda Upsilon -- Se–oritas Latinas Unidas (1993-95). She is on the advisory board of the Spanish language arts journal La voz and is also the major adviser and inspiration for the theater group Teatrotaller, which produces plays by Hispanic authors.
Castillo received her B.S. at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and her M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has taught at Cornell since 1985. As of July 1, she will be director of the Latin American Studies Program at Cornell.
She has published four books and currently has one book in press, Easy Women: Sex and Gender in Modern Mexican Fiction, and is collaborating on a multidisciplinary book on female prostitution in Tijuana.
David Feldshuh, artistic director of Cornell's Center for Theatre Arts and the Albert C. and Molly Phelps Bean Faculty Fellow in Theatre Arts, graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Dartmouth College and received his actor training as Reynold's Scholar at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. A McKnight fellowship took him to the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, first as an actor and then as associate director. While at the Guthrie, he earned a Ph.D in theater from the University of Minnesota and completed an M.D. in 1979. He is a board-certified emergency room physician and a fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians.
Feldshuh has remained active in the professional theater, primarily as a playwright. His latest play, Miss Evers' Boys, chronicles the infamous Tuskegee Institute medical studies and has won numerous awards, has been produced at major theaters throughout the United States and was adapted for an HBO movie. Feldshuh has been particularly creative in using the theater as a vehicle for heightening students' understanding of complex social issues. For example, he co-produced a prize-winning video, Susceptible to Kindness: 'Miss Evers' Boys and the Tuskegee Study, to explore the issues of race and ethnicity.
Since his arrival at Cornell in 1984, Feldshuh has helped revitalize the theater program. His teaching responsibilities have centered primarily on Fundamentals of Directing I and II, along with Creativity and the Actor (Theatre Arts 285, offered during three summer sessions). The directing courses are very small and intensive, demanding dedication and effort from both students and teacher.
As a director, Feldshuh works closely with all the students involved in a production. The weeks of preparation are as much a learning experience for those students as any formal classroom.
Clifford R. Pollock
Pollock received his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Rice University. Since Pollock came to Cornell in 1983, the student response to his courses has been extraordinarily enthusiastic. "As a classroom teacher he is nothing short of legendary," says one colleague. "He energized and inspired students and rejuvenated our optoelectronics curriculum." For example, he redesigned the notorious "SuperLab" -- the required Electrical Engineering Laboratory course -- to high praise from both students and colleagues. He also developed the highly popular sequence of Lasers and Optical Electronics courses.
Pollock has received five teaching awards from 1988 through 1995, coming from three distinct sources -- students themselves, the dean of the college and his advisers and a national group, which awarded him the C. Holmes Macdonald Outstanding Teaching Award.
In 1996, he was designated a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. He is technically at the forefront of his field and, at the same time, an energizing, inspiring teacher and a mentor for undergraduates in electrical engineering. An associate director of the school, he has maintained an open-door policy that welcomes students and invites them to discuss their concerns with him and is the adviser to the Cornell chapter of the Eta Kappa Nu honor society. Further, he is probably the only faculty member at Cornell to have been immortalized as a character in an episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" by a former student, who is now a scriptwriter and science consultant for the series.