Andison, Barlow Awards Recognize Faculty Excellence

Alma College’s top awards for faculty excellence recognize superior teaching in the areas of English, art and design and education.

ALMA — Lee Vander Kooi and Prathim Maya Dora-Laskey are the 2023 recipients of the Andison Awards for Excellence in Teaching, and Brian Hancock and Jillian Dickson have received this year’s Barlow Awards for Faculty Excellence.

The Andison Awards for Excellence in Teaching

The Andison Awards, made possible by a gift from trustee Thomas Andison, recognize excellence in teaching through pedagogical innovation, creative activities with students, and superior teaching. Faculty members nominate their colleagues for the award, and the president selects the recipients, who each receive a $1,000 cash grant to support their scholarship.

Lee Vander Kooi Lee Vander KooiVander Kooi, who has taught at Alma since 2021, received the Andison Award for untenured faculty. He is an assistant professor of art and design.

“I am thoroughly surprised and deeply humbled to have been recognized with the Andison Award for Excellence in Teaching,” Vander Kooi said. “This achievement is a testament to the exceptional colleagues at Alma College, who have inspired me through meaningful discussions about teaching and learning. I am also grateful to my thoughtful, creative and engaged students, who continuously inspire me to be a better educator. Their passion and commitment are what truly made this award possible.”

Vander Kooi has a master’s degree from North Carolina State University. He currently teaches two-dimensional and graphic design and is working to develop a UI/UX curriculum.

“Lee lives design thinking, as evidenced in his approaches to course design on the macro and micro levels, as well as his reflection on his own teaching practices and the role of design thinking across campus,” his nomination letter states. “Lee is a gifted educator who values our students and liberal arts approaches to teaching and learning that include engaged, student-centered practices based on relationship-building and trust.”

Prathim Maya Dora-Laskey Prathim Maya Dora-LaskeyDora-Laskey, who has taught at Alma since 2012, received the Andison Award for tenured faculty. She is an associate professor of English and women’s and gender studies.

“I am happy, honored and — frankly — humbled to receive the Andison Award as I am inspired daily by colleagues across campus who apply utmost care and creativity in empowering students,” Dora-Laskey said. “I am so grateful for the privilege of being involved on this journey of learning. As a continuous learner, I have tried to make sure in each class that everyone, including me, finds new information and innovative ways to think every day; I’m glad to know this has been meaningful to my wonderful students here at Alma.”

Dora-Laskey has a D.Phil degree in English literature from the University of Oxford (U.K.). She currently teaches First-Year Seminar courses, as well as courses in world literature, college rhetoric, critical theory, feminist thought, and women’s studies.

“Dr. Dora-Laskey is a caring and creative teacher,” her nomination letter states. “She constantly updates her teaching methods, and brings in timely events to keep her students interested and her content relevant. Maya makes connections between disciplines in true liberal arts fashion. She supports students in their research via independent studies and taking student presenters to conferences, and has mentored several Kapp Award winners.”

The Barlow Awards for Faculty Excellence

The Faculty Barlow Awards, made possible by a gift from Joel Barlow, a 1929 Alma graduate, recognize faculty members for excellence in teaching, scholarly or creative work, and college and community service. Recipients are nominated by faculty, administrators, alumni and student Barlow Trophy nominees. The president selects the awardees, who receive $1,000 cash grants.

Jillian Dickson Jillian DicksonDickson, an assistant professor of art and design, has taught at Alma since 2015. She has a Master of Fine Arts degree from Clemson University.

“Faculty, staff, and students have worked so hard this year. I imagine it was near impossible to choose only two recipients for the Barlow Award. I envision committees threw all of our names in a hat this year and it turns out I was one of the lucky winners. I look around and I see faculty caring so deeply, going above and beyond our contractual duties. I see students facing challenges head-on, while undergoing enormous pressures. I see staff continuing to gracefully steer the ship during this heavy storm,” Dickson said. “I am thankful.”

Dickson teaches all levels of drawing and painting and continually works to develop the department’s curriculum, as well as the new general education program. Her art can be seen throughout the campus of Alma College as well as in museums, galleries and children’s books.

“Professor Dickson’s passion for art and for creative processes brings excitement and rigor to the classroom; I have seen it transform non-artists to creatives and motivate students to not only learn, but to find power in vulnerability,” her nomination letter states. “Professor Dickson cultivates more than just an art experience — she focuses on individuals so they are also equipped with the confidence, ideas and creative frameworks necessary to push themselves to become good artists.”

Brian Hancock Brian HancockHancock, an assistant professor of education, has taught at Alma since 2018. He has a Ph.D. in curriculum, instruction and teacher education from Michigan State University.

“I am deeply honored to be nominated for and receive this Faculty Barlow Award. I sincerely appreciate the work we are privileged to do here each and every day at Alma College, and I am thankful to my education department colleagues and all others here on campus that likewise contribute to making Alma a phenomenal place to do meaningful and impactful work with students,” Hancock said.

Hancock helped develop a partnership with Alma College and Alma Public Schools to support middle school students’ STEM interests. Has also received a grant from the National Science Foundation to help continue his research, which focuses on understanding how to support preservice elementary teachers’ science learning.

“Brian is an exceptional teacher and educator, but more importantly, he is a scholar dedicated to experiential learning and a research program within the field of science education,” his nomination letter states. “Brian sets examples by being highly productive himself. He has a strong research program, he publishes his work, and he writes grants to get support for his research and teaching agenda.”

Story published on April 19, 2023