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Two W&M faculty members receive Commonwealth's top award

Two faculty members at the College of William and Mary have received the Commonwealth’s highest honor for professors. Daniel Cristol and Francie Cate-Arries were selected as two of the 12 statewide recipients of the 2007 Outstanding Faculty Awards, sponsored by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia and Dominion.

Francie Cate-Arries, professor of Hispanic studies, and Daniel Cristol, associate professor of biology, were selected as two of the 12 statewide recipients of the 2007 Outstanding Faculty Awards, sponsored by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia and Dominion.

The award recognizes the finest among Virginia’s college faculty for their demonstrated excellence in teaching, research and public service. The General Assembly and governor created the award in 1986. Since the first presentation in 1987, 244 faculty members in Virginia’s colleges and universities have been honored, including now 30 faculty members from William and Mary.

“William and Mary is known by its faculty—the lifeblood of an educational experience literally unlike any other—and each year they carry the college’s banner high at SCHEV’s Outstanding Faculty Awards,” said President Gene R. Nichol. “Francie and Dan—marvelous teachers, researchers, mentors, and colleagues—outpace even our noblest aspirations for faculty accomplishment. We’re beyond proud to call them our own.”

The 2007 winners will be recognized at a ceremony at the Library of Virginia today, where they will each receive a $5,000 cash award and a commemorative engraved award.

“Francie Cate-Arries and Dan Cristol represent the best of the best. In addition to being exceptional scholars and classroom teachers of immense prowess and energy, they are also dedicated to engaging William and Mary students in their research and in engaging the communities at large in understanding their research – whether that be in Cádiz, Spain or at Rawls Byrd Elementary School in Williamsburg,” said P. Geoffrey Feiss, provost of the college.

Cate-Arries began teaching at William and Mary in 1986. She is a professor of Hispanic studies and a resident director for the William and Mary Summer Program in Cadiz, Spain. A specialist in contemporary Spanish cultural studies, she has published on a wide range of topics including V́azquez Montalb̀an’s detective novels, the art of Salvador Dali and Remedios Varo, and the exile authors of the Spanish Civil War. As a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow, she wrote the book “Spanish Culture behind Barbed-Wire: Memory and Representation of the French Concentration Camps, 1939-1945.” As a 2005 recipient of the Reves Center for International Studies Borgenicht Grant, she led a team of Hispanic Studies majors to Spain where the students conducted research on the CSIC Archive of Mourning Project, cataloguing materials and documentation associated with the March 11, 2004, terrorist bombings. Her publications include studies on the commemorative literature of the 2004 Madrid bombings, Manuel Vazquez Montalban and free speech in free society, the place of Cervantes in post-civil war exile literature in Mexico, and representations of the French internment camps for Spanish refugees. She is a freshman advisor and a “New Faculty in the Humanities” group mentor.

  “In every course I teach, I ask students to join me on a journey into sometimes radically different realms in time and space where English isn’t spoken, where nothing may resemble home. I urge them to walk into worlds created on the page, on the screen, on the canvas, on city streets, which may seem light-years away from the places they know best. I gently but firmly push them toward ‘an encounter elsewhere,’ beyond the limits of their particular universe, where things may look and sound different, but in ways that matter deeply, are the same,” she wrote in her nomination package. “I seek to instill in students an enduring confidence that they are indeed well-equipped to interpret and to make sense of the Spanish, Latin American, and the U.S. Latino voices, perspectives, and ways of thinking that they may first find in our college classroom, and eventually, most meaningfully, will discover beyond the limits of the university.”

Cristol is an associate professor of biology. He began teaching at the college in 1996 and is well known for his work involving birds. He has received two major teaching awards and has published 35 papers in respected journals.

Cristol breathed new life into two under-enrolled classes he inherited when he first began work with the College: animal behavior and ornithology. Enrollment for his animal behavior class blossomed from 30 to 100 in the first year and, because of its consistently large enrollment, Cristol has been able to use it to try new teaching strategies like the use of “clickers,” which are student response pads that give the professor an idea of how well a class grasps a concept by anonymous responses. In his ornithology class, Cristol combines classroom learning with early morning and overnight field trips to teach students bird ecology and evolution. In his introductory biology classes, Cristol uses the clicker system, list servers, Web sites, virtual review sessions and in-class critical-thinking exercises to not only teach fundamental material but also impart a sense of the power of scientific inquiry. His research work on birds, from their brains and migration to the effects of land usage of them, has had an impact on numerous fields and is recognized internationally. Cristol serves as the chair of the Institutional Animal Use and Care Committee at the university. He has also recently taken the helm of the Murray Scholars Program and writes a monthly column for the Virginia Gazette about birds.

“I have the perfect job. I get to teach highly motivated students in a variety of settings, while at the same time pursuing new knowledge about something I love, birds. … It is not that I perceive birds to be somehow superior to other creatures or interests. Rather, these beautiful, fragile and complex animals just happen to offer me an ideal focal point for integrating different aspects of my life. Learning to look at birds, from the perspective of a parent or professor, is to acquire a new way of looking at life,” he wrote in his nomination package. “… There is no teaching thrill like handing a student their first fuzzy baby bird and saying with a straight face, ‘Weigh it, and don’t squeeze too hard.’ We are studying birds, but again, for my students and I, birds are a way of developing a coherent worldview.”