Story by Erin Zagursky
Ask Dean for Educational Policy Teresa Longo about her devotion to William & Mary, and she will humbly tell you that she is by no means an exception to the rule.
“The people that are at William & Mary are just amazing,” she said. “In the dean’s office in particular, the kind of collaborative effort is just extraordinary. It’s been a lot of fun in that nobody has the same job as anyone else, so we all really need each other.”
Longo will receive the Thomas Jefferson Award at William & Mary’s Charter Day ceremony on Feb. 8.
The award is presented to a person who “has demonstrated a deep devotion and outstanding service to the College and whose life, character and influence on the College exemplify the principles of Thomas Jefferson.”
Now an associate professor of Hispanic Studies, Longo came to William & Mary in 1988 as an assistant professor after completing graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 2010, she took on her role as the College’s dean for educational policy, where she served as the contact dean for multiple departments in Arts & Sciences. She also serves as co-chair of the College’s Curriculum Review Steering Committee.With her expertise in the field of Latin-American studies and literature, she helped transform the Spanish program at William & Mary into Hispanic Studies – her first foray into curriculum review and a successful one at that, according to colleagues.
“The curricular transformation of Hispanic Studies has enabled its faculty to take advantage of College-wide initiatives like Mellon Undergraduate Research Grants with inordinate success and made the program a guiding influence in the department,” wrote one of Longo’s colleagues in a recommendation letter for the Jefferson Award.
Along with her work in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, Longo has also been highly involved in several other internationalization efforts at William & Mary.
“She is one of the campus leaders in our efforts to become more international and more interdisciplinary, to promote more opportunities for our students to do research, and to support the creative work of our faculty and students,” said another colleague in a recommendation letter.
Longo played a significant role in the creation of postdoctoral positions in the Global Studies program and the establishment of the W&M Confucius Institute. She also supported the evolution of the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies program and the creation of the university’s joint degree program with St. Andrews. Additionally, Longo contributed to the formation of a committee in Arts & Sciences to serve as a resource for faculty interested in pursuing international efforts.
“People – our students, our faculty and staff – need to be in the world as informed citizens in such a way that we’re respectful and we can contribute and that we can also learn,” said Longo. “What I don’t want to do with students is ever have us think that we have the answers and we’ll take them somewhere else but rather that there’s a flow of knowledge.”
Longo was appointed as the co-chair of the university’s curriculum review committee in 2010 along with Michael Lewis, associate professor of mathematics. The committee was formed following a yearlong campus-wide discussion in 2009-10 about the liberal arts at W&M, which was part of the university’s strategic planning process. In a 2010 memo, W&M Provost Michael R. Halleran said that the review “should above all else focus on developing the most vibrant and exciting liberal arts education for our students, leveraging our core values with our distinctive attributes.” The last curriculum review at William & Mary took place from 1991 to 1993.
The review process can be challenging because what faculty members teach is important to them, said Longo.
“So, when I am a spokesperson bringing an idea forward, it’s not about me,” she said. “If that were the case, the work would be too hard. But it’s not about me. It’s about the people that are bringing it forward. It’s about the ideas. It’s about the students. It’s about thinking what’s best for the institution and knowing that the critique is also important.”
Although several of the people who nominated Longo for the Thomas Jefferson Award praised her ability to create consensus on the committee, she noted “there’s no option but to work toward consensus because that’s the task.”
“We’re supposed to steer faculty conversation toward a place where we ultimately have a new design for a new curriculum that is the will of the whole body,” she said.
Still, her work on the committee is earning her kudos from colleagues.
“Under her calm and inspired guidance, this review has navigated a course toward the heart of faculty discourse and gotten us talking once more about what our goals are for all of our students,” said one recommendation letter. “There is a growing sense of enthusiasm, and a sense that innovative and creative ideas are both welcome and wanted.
“Teresa has helped us regain our sense of community and our sense of excitement in what William & Mary can become.”
Longo has received numerous awards throughout the years for her work at the university, including the Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award in 1996.
She recalled listening to the recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Award that year during Charter Day and thinking that he really saw the whole picture of the university.
“That was a long ago, and over time, I don’t think that I can say that I see the whole picture of this institution, but my world at William & Mary has gotten bigger and bigger as time has gone by,” said Longo. “I’ve moved from thinking about my own teaching, my own research to the Hispanic Studies program, to the Modern Languages Department, to Arts & Sciences, and that’s what I have loved about being at W&M. That’s what possible.
“You can really grow here. My world has gotten bigger as a result of that kind of climate.”