MLL is honored to have received both of the 2019 Jefferson Faculty Awards. Silvia Tandeciarz, Chair of MLL and Professor of Hispanic Studies, is the recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Award, and Jennifer Gülly, Senior Lecturer and MLL Associate Chair of Departmental Affairs, has received the Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award. The award ceremony took place on January 31st, and both will also be recognized at the Charter Day celebrations on February 8th. In her acceptance speech, Gully emphasized the potentiality of the foreign language classroom to foster a critical view of students’ o
wn language and culture, and the rewards of the hard work that students put into language learning every day. Tandeciarz spoke about the legacy of Perón’s populist politics in Argentina and what we might learn from it for the future of higher education in the United States:
“We face extraordinary challenges and also some uncertainty about what the future of higher education holds, and these challenges are not divorced from those posed by the rapidly changing structural, economic, social, and political conditions manifesting in our country and, indeed, across the globe. And yet, as we stand on this threshold, I want to direct our attention to the tremendous opportunities this moment also holds. WE are the ones, after all, whose labor will determine how to pave a way forward: and I trust that we will do so together, by continuing to defend the values we hold dear, by working for greater inclusion, representation, and equity, and by recognizing the vital role institutions of higher learning can play in a healthy, thriving democracy.”
Jennifer Gully, Senior Lecturer of German, received the 2019 Jefferson Teaching Award at a ceremony on January 31. The Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award is a tribute to several members of the faculty who influenced and encouraged Thomas Jefferson. The award is intended to recognize today’s teachers on the faculty. It is made annually to a younger teaching member of the William & Mary community who has demonstrated, through concern as a teacher and through character and influence, the inspiration and stimulation of learning to the betterment of the individual and society as exemplified by Thomas Jefferson. Continue here
Silvia Tandeciarz, Chair of Modern Languages & Literatures and Professor of Hispanic Studies, received the 2019 Jefferson Award at a ceremony on January 31. The Thomas Jefferson Award is given each year to a member of the William & Mary family for significant service through his or her personal activities, influence and leadership. Read about Prof. Tandeciarz’ research, teaching, and service here.
[Original story by Cortney Langley; for Prof. Riofrio’s remarks upon acceptance of the award during Charter Day, February 6, 2015, click here]
To John Riofrio, the day a student walked out of his class in frustration represents as large a teaching victory as the day a quiet conversation led another one to remain in William & Mary and later choose teaching as a career.
That might seem a strange posture for an instructor who during Charter Day will be bestowed the Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award. But it’s a perfectly consistent attitude for the Hispanic studies professor who goes by “Rio” and who daily tries to prod students into challenging intellectual territory.
His efforts will be rewarded on Charter Day, Feb. 6. The award is given annually to a younger faculty member who has demonstrated – through concern as a teacher, character and influence – the inspiration and stimulation of learning to the betterment of the individual and society.
“I’m not a highly awarded anything,” Riofrio said. “This is the first big award I’ve won, and it’s an amazing feeling.”
Hispanic Studies Professor Ann Marie Stock said in a letter of support from the Modern Languages and Literatures Awards Committee that in 2009 the department envisioned hiring a Latino cultural studies specialist mainly to create and offer courses in the emerging field.
“But we gained so much more: a brilliant scholar whose work is shifting paradigms in ethnic and area studies across the hemisphere; a highly effective teacher consistently lauded by his students for ‘life-changing’ experiences and sought out by his colleagues for pedagogical advice and curricular enhancement; and a generous citizen devoted to the greater good. Professor Riofrio inspires us all, and his leadership and collaborative spirit have left us changed,” she said.
Riofrio emphasizes a hemispheric approach to identity politics by examining Latino cultural production, border studies, globalization, immigration and migration, Stock said. Classes such as Border Theory, Constructing the Barrio and Critiquing the American Dream expose students to new perspectives, and they respond enthusiastically in evaluations that rank Riofrio and his classes “well above” the departmental mean.
“It was one of the first classes I had that really required me to think,” wrote Chenoa Moten ’12 in a letter of recommendation. “There was no ‘remember, recite, repeat’ going on in Rio’s classes. He would constantly challenge us to have an opinion and to share it.”
Another student, Jin Hyuk Ho ’16, said the class lit up when Riofrio walked in. “He was genuinely interested in what everyone had to say and, for the first time in my life, I got to experience a classroom in which no student held back his or her thoughts for fear of sounding stupid.”
For his part, Riofrio dodges credit, pointing to the nature of teaching and the students themselves for his success.
“Good teachers are constantly critiquing themselves. One of my advisers once said that good teachers were inherently like thieves: They would see a good idea and steal it, take it for their own classrooms and their own pedagogy. He’s absolutely right about that.
“William & Mary is absolutely sincere about its dedication to teaching. I never felt like if I had published two brilliant books in my field and had been a terrible teacher, I would have been able to stay.”
In the classroom Riofrio sparks discussion and sniffs out dissent. If students feel like it’s the first time they are being asked to think deeply about a subject, Riofrio said it’s more a commentary on K-12 education emphasizing standardization than it is on him.
“William & Mary students are often the students who have best been able to negotiate that context. The problem is I don’t know that that necessarily qualifies you to be a critical thinker. But what does it mean to actually spend time teaching critical thinking? It’s time consuming, and it’s often really frustrating for students.”
Enter the student who exited. Riofrio recalls the class was discussing consumerism, and what it means to live in a country whose economy is dependent on citizens buying all the time. One student argued that “sometimes shopping just feels good,” but balked when asked what generated that good feeling.
“I remember she was upfront that this was so frustrating, that she just felt like, ‘Where’s the right answer? Should we buy stuff or not?’
“And that frustration is actually what my classes are about. I don’t pretend I have any answers to these things. And our efforts to work through them, to just wrestle with them, was precisely what they hadn’t been asked to do in high school. What I love about teaching here is that when they do come to my classroom, almost across the board they are ready to think about these things.”
Students say Riofrio is just as inspiring outside the classroom. Daniel Vivas ’11 had already met with a recruiter, having decided to drop out of school to join his brother in the military, when he went to see Riofrio.
“What was said in that office will stay between him and me,” but the conversation changed his mind, Vivas told the awards committee. Today he’s himself teaching while pursuing a doctorate. “Every day I’ve spent as an educator, I’ve spent it trying to be as good a teacher as [Riofrio], and to be as impactful with my students as he was with me,” he said.
Riofrio denies he has a particularly nurturing demeanor and actually gave up freshman advising because he felt he wasn’t good enough at it.
“Mine is not the kind of office where a steady stream of students comes in to sort of pour their hearts out,” he said. “I don’t have a box of Kleenex ready to go. But I care about them, and I respect them.”
On campus, Riofrio is one of the inaugural group of Center for the Liberal Arts Fellows implementing the new COLL curriculum. He sits on the W&M Diversity Advisory Committee and has also served with the Ad Hoc Admissions Committee for Latino Recruitment. In 2011, he organized a national colloquium on minority studies on campus.
His forthcoming book, Continental Shifts: Migration, Representation and the Search for Justice in Latin(o) America, will be released by University of Texas Press this year. He has also published a series of opinion pieces inThe Huffington Post.
Off campus, he serves on the board of directors of All Together Williamsburg, a group promoting diversity in the Historic Triangle. He participated in a Virginia Department of Health workshop on Latinos and has co-facilitated public workshops in Williamsburg on Latino immigration.
“I’ve really wanted whatever I do to be relevant, particularly trying to bridge the disconnect between the public perception of Latinos in the United States and the reality,” he said. “There’s still an enormous amount of misunderstanding. I feel like my academic work shouldn’t be entirely distinct from my role in the community.”
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.”
Alexander Prokhorov is Associate Professor of Russian and Film Studies at College of William and Mary. His research interests include Russian visual culture, genre theory, and film history.
He is the author of Inherited Discourse: Paradigms of Stalinist Culture in Literature and Cinema of the Thaw (Akademicheskii proekt, 2007) and the editor of Springtime for Soviet Cinema: Re/viewing the 1960s (Pittsburgh Film Symposium, 2001). His articles and reviews have been published in Kinokultura, Russian Review, Slavic Review, Slavic and East European Journal, Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema, Art of Cinema (Iskusstvo kino), and Wiener Slawistische Almanach.
Teresa Longo is a faculty member in Modern Languages and Literatures and the Dean for Educational Policy at the College of William and Mary. She teaches Local/Global Issues, Masterworks, Issues in Mexican Culture and Urban Images. She works on the relationship between Latin America and the United States as it is articulated and negotiated through culture. Longo is the editor of Pablo Neruda and the US Culture Industry. Her current book project is called Visible Dissent.