News and Accomplishments | College of Liberal Arts | SIU

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News and Accomplishments

May 04, 2016

The College of Liberal Arts, besides being the largest on campus, is also one of the busiest. Nearly every week, departments within the college host lectures and workshops, theater productions and community activities, art exhibitions and music performances, or provide demonstrations and community service. In addition, faculty and students are constantly publishing creative work, presenting academic papers, and researching in the field, in libraries and online.

Here are just a few highlights of recent accomplishments.


Kit Paulson, a graduate student specializing in glass in the School of Art and Design, is a professional finalist in the 2016 NICHE Awards, and recently received a professional-level residency at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Wash. And that’s not all – she was also featured in Glass Art Society magazine, her work selected to appear on the cover.

Najjar Abdul-Musawwir, associate professor of drawing and painting in the School of Art and Design, contributed work to “Good Negroes,” an art exhibit in the gallery at Webster Groves Christian Church in St. Louis, as part of ongoing discussions about race in the greater St. Louis area.

• Carbondale Community Arts recognized Edward Benyas, professor of oboe and Southern Illinois Symphony Orchestra conductor, with the 2015 Legacy Award for his “continuing dedication to the region’s cultural climate” . . . noting that he is “among those whose impact will be felt for generations to come.”

Kerra Taylor and Kendra Stenger, two graduate students in painting from the School of Art and Design had their work selected in a competitive call for long-term student art exhibition at the Illinois Board of Higher Education headquarters in Springfield. Taylor is showing five pieces and Stenger, three. Their work will remain on display for nearly a year, through November 2016.

Susan Patrick Benson, associate professor of voice in the Department of Theater, shared with a wider public an open letter she wrote as director of undergraduate studies. Her letter, “Your Child Wants to Be in Theater: A Letter to the Parents,” was published in the November issue of the VASTA Voice, a publication of the Voice and Speech Trainers Association. The letter provides sterling – and possibly surprising – assurances for parents of students pursuing degrees in the arts.

Kathleen Frye, lecturer in art education with the School of Art and Design, was instrumental in launching Art Hives Carbondale. Art Hives are pop-up studios based on the belief that everyone should have access to making and learning about art. This community outreach project receives support from Carbondale Community Arts Southern Arts Fund and the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

Junghwa Lee, School of Music, is on a tour of Asia, kicking off States-side in Los Angeles. Among her appearances are three concerts in Thailand, for which she created a different program of music by special request. Other sites on her tour include venues in Taiwan and Singapore.

Anne Fletcher, professor of theater history and dramaturgy in the Department of Theater, and Scott R. Irelan, SIU alum and associate dean of fine arts at Western Michigan University, published a textbook, “Experiencing Theater,” from Focus Press. Proceeds will fund theater graduate student travel through a new SIU Foundation endowment.

Caleb Clausing, Dallas LaCassa and Ileana Quezada are the winners of the 2016 Rickert-Ziebold Trust Award competition at SIU. Clausing is an industrial design student, his entry was an easier-to-be-green “Rainwater Planter.” Dallas LaCassa is a ceramics student, and his brightly colored, multi-piece entry was “Walking through Texture.” Ileana Quezada, a sculpture and ceramics student, created a multi-piece sculpture of ceramic and rebar that represents the toxicity violence brings to many Mexican villages and her attempt to understand a country that is part of her heritage but not her citizenship or daily experience. The award commemorates Joseph Rickert, a prominent lawyer and former state senator from Waterloo, who loved the arts. The amount of the award varies each year based on earnings from the trust, but it is a substantial award designed to help students transition to the next phase of their careers. 


• CoLA faculty continue to make contributions to important national conversations on higher education. The Department of History’s Professor Jonathan Bean commented on SIU’s experience with online courses in an article published by the National Association of Scholars. Philosopher Doug Anderson commented twice on teaching in The Chronicle of Higher Education in recent months. See especially “The Self-Obliterating Professor.”

Carola Daffner, associate professor of German in the Department of Languages, Cultures, and International Trade, was interviewed on Deutschlandfunk, Germany’s national public radio, about the relationship between the 2006 World Cup and German national identity. The radio interview expands on Daffner’s previous work on the topic in “Football, Mythology and Identity in Sönke Wortmann’s Deutschland: Ein Sommermärchen.”

• MFA candidate and poet Jessica Lynn Suchon, Department of English, won a fellowship to Aspen Summer Words, to begin in June.

Rachel A. Griffin, associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies, received the Critical Communication Studies Division Scholar-Activist Award at the National Communication Association’s national convention. The award recognizes scholars whose work is both analytical and activist-oriented. Griffin’s work with the Carbondale Women’s Center contributed to her receipt of the award.

• The debate duo of Arielle Stephenson and Bobby Swetz finished a successful debate season with a second-in-the-nation finish at the National Parliamentary Debate Association national championship. The two melded as a team quickly, representing SIU in their first debate season together by winning several tournaments, and even traveling to Greece for the World Debate Championships.

Natasha Zaretsky, associate professor in the Department of History, earned a Visiting Fellowship award at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney (Australia).  The fellowship presents an opportunity for scholars to make progress on a serious writing project, engage with the Centre's academics and interact with the larger Australian academic community. Zaretsky is one of just four recipients for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Paula de Salazar León, graduate student from Languages, Cultures, and International Trade, was named one of two recipients of the 2016 GTA Award.  De Salazar León teaches SPAN 140, Elementary Spanish, as well as participates in the Spanish program at Lewis School in Carbondale.

Sydne Rensing, a senior from the Department of Communication Studies with a specialization in public relations, is the 2016 Student Employee of the Year. She works as a marketing assistant in the Student Center.

• Poet Allison Joseph, director of the master of fine arts in creative writing program in the Department of English, has two collections of poetry forthcoming. “The Purpose of Hands” is with Glass Lyre Press, and “Confessions of a Bare-Faced Woman” is forthcoming from Red Hen Press. She also has a chapbook, “Mortal Rewards,” pending from Kelsay Books.

Todd Graham, director of the debate program in the Department of Communication Studies, has been a front page commentator on every presidential primary debate for CNN online during this election cycle. Other news agencies frequently pick up the CNN analysis for their own publications.

• Center for English as a Second Language faculty member Catherine Caldwell received the Women’s Intersport Network for Southern Illinois 2016 Courage Award at the annual “Celebrate Women” luncheon and award ceremony.

Social Sciences

Savannah McCord is the 2015 Lincoln Academy of Illinois Student Laureate for SIU. Savannah graduates with a double major in Psychology and Management. She and a select cohort of seniors – one each from the state’s four-year, degree-granting institutions of higher learning – were fêted at a convocation at the Old State Capitol this fall.

Gretchen R. Dabbs, associate professor, Department of Anthropology, was promoted to the status of Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

• Graduate student Lindsey Roberts, Department of Anthropology, won the Forensic Sciences Foundation Student Travel Grant essay competition. She attended the annual American Academy of Forensic Sciences meeting and presented some of her work on human decomposition. Roberts, along with Jessica Spencer, won the Arts/Humanities/Social Sciences research poster competition at the Graduate Students Creative Activities and Research Forum. They examined the effect of body mass on the rate and pattern of human decomposition. This is the second year in a row research originating at the Complex for Forensic Anthropology Research has won this competition.

Leslie Duram, professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Resources, earned a $131,000 research grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Local Food Promotion Program.

• The Department of Economics and the Economics Club recently sponsored a trip to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis for its biannual “Day at the Fed.” Twenty students were introduced to the workings of the Fed and learned about internship and job opportunities at the institution. Students met with recent hires and hiring managers, individually and in break-out sessions.

Tobin Grant, professor of political science, gave a talk on campus about the super-heated presidential election cycle.

Gabriel Casher, Department of Psychology, was one of two students to earn the 2016 GTA Award. Casher has taught Introduction to Psychology for the department. 

• Criminology and Criminal Justice’s Joseph Schafer was honored recently by President Dunn as one of the “Faces of SIU” in “the System Connection” newsletter. Schafer was earlier this year named a new commissioner for the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc., or CALEA, an international organization dedicated to public safety accreditation.

Rebecca Vaughn, graduating this spring with a major in anthropology and a minor in sociology, will join AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps in Denver in October, upon completion of summer travels through Southeast Asia. Rebecca received the Outstanding Senior Award as well as the Undergraduate Paper Award this year. She says she has her sights set on acquiring an MPA in nonprofit business management in the near future.

Mark Wagner, director of the Center for Archaeological Investigations, received the Friends of Morris Library Delta Award for 2016. The award is for individuals or cultural organizations that have contributed significantly to the Southern Illinois region through writing, research or other service.

• Criminology and Criminal Justice doctoral student Michael Kyle received a Student Research Award from the Association for Doctoral Programs in Criminology and Criminal Justice. He will use the award to pay for travel as he collects data for his dissertation.

Kevin Sylwester, associate professor, Department of Economics, was a guest commentator on WJPF Radio with Tom Miller. He discussed the current state of the economy, the Federal Reserve and current events in Europe and in the United States that affect the economy.