CHaSS honors top students, faculty, and friends at annual awards ceremony

April 16, 2012

The College of Humanities and Social Sciences honored students, faculty, and friends of the college, for their accomplishments and service over the 2011-12 academic year at its annual awards ceremony. The event Thursday was standing room only at the Taggart Student Center auditorium as guests spilled out into the halls.

Twenty-three students received A-Pins, one of the oldest awards at Utah State awarded for earning straight A’s for two consecutive semesters, and each department recognized students from their programs who represent exceptional achievement in their majors. The college also acknowledged faculty and student scholars for the research and teaching.

Tessa Ryser, a double major in English and art, received the Legacy of Utah State Award for representing the heart and soul of the university. She was nominated for producing high-caliber creative works including two honors contracts, and for her humanitarian efforts. She recently volunteered at the Paralympic Games and worked with children requiring medical attention in Haiti.

Senior Tasha Salisbury was named the college’s Scholar of the Year. She is a history teaching major, with a minor in English Teaching. She is the college’s valedictorian.

“Tasha is a model scholar,” Associate Dean Charlie Huenemann said. “We look forward to her representing the university in her own classroom.”

Among the faculty acknowledged, Brock Dethier received the college’s Teacher of the Year Award. He is a professor of English who has devoted much of his 35 year career to teaching. He has published four books on teaching and is frequently cited as an inspiration by graduating students. Dethier will deliver a special talk at commencement.  

Damon Cann, assistant professor of political science, was named the college’s Researcher of the Year. In 2011 alone he published five articles in peer-reviewed journals, including two in the Journal of Politics.  Cann studies U.S. politics and elections and his reputation continues to grow outside the state. His articles appear on graduate course syllabi nationwide.

Frank Bacheller, an associate professor of second language learning, was named the 2012 recipient of the Ed Glatfelter Faculty Service Award. The award honors faculty who provide guidance to programs and initiatives both on and off campus. The award is named for Ed Glatfelter, professor of history and former associate dean, who has devoted four decades to improving the lives of the students and faculty of the college. Bacheller could not receive the award in person because he was in Washington D.C. working on ways to improve second language acquisition programs.

Dean John C. Allen created the Giraffe Award last year to reward risk-takers in the college who work to improve education by not being afraid to fail. He selects the winner of this award and this year he gave the honor to Bonnie Glass-Coffin, professor of anthropology, for pushing the boundaries of teaching.

“Nationally, there is an ongoing discussion of the failure of higher education to address the “big questions” students care so deeply about,” he said. “They have a thirst for explorations of reality, meaning and spirituality.”

Glass-Coffin addresses those in her course Introduction to Shamanism: Shamanic Healing for Personal and Planetary Transformation.

“It emphasizes participatory learning in an area that many would rather leave to the safe world of print analysis, and which some might consider to be just plain witchcraft,” he said. “She melds her academic knowledge of shamanism with experiential learning in order to give students an understanding of a world view that may not be comprehensible otherwise.”

Norm Jones, head of the history department, was recognized for his service to the college. After 18 years leading the department, he will step down to work as the university’s Director of General Education. As chair of the Regents’ General Education Task Force and a Fulbright Special Consultant, helping universities in Hong Kong transition to a liberal arts education, Jones is a natural fit to lead the university in its efforts to improve general education.

“He has had a dramatic impact on the successes of this college, as well as on his discipline and his many students,” Allen said.

Under Jones’ leadership, the history department received the university’s Department Teaching Excellence Award, which recognizes department cultures that meaningfully value learning excellence. The award provides a one-time gift of $20,000 to the department’s budget.

Generous alumni and friends were recognized for their help further the school’s mission by providing financial support and guidance to college administrators. Each year, the college recognizes “Friends of CHaSS” for outstanding service assisting these efforts.

Robert Gross, ’72, founder of Robert C. Gross Associates, a public policy/commercial conflict resolution firm was selected for his role heading the school’s advancement board. Christine Hult, professor emeritus in the English department and an innovator of online education, and her husband Nathan Hult, an attorney and member of the Bear River Land Conservancy, were honored for their support to the English department and Utah Public Radio.

Two members of the college’s advancement board were honored for their contributions to student learning. CeCe Foxley, former Commissioner of the Utah System of Higher Education, established a new scholarship in the college—the Foxley Fellow—which benefits an student planning to teach high school English. The first recipient is Sara Pedesen of Montpelier, Idaho.

Tim Stewart, an attorney at the American Capitol Group and former senior Congressional staff member in the United States House of Representatives, created the Stewart Family Fellowship awarded for the first time this year.

“We are indebted to Dr. Foxley for what she has done to place the brightest and the best into the classroom,” Allen said.

Photo 1: Brock Dethier, Teacher of the Year

Photo 2: Bonnie Glass-Coffin, Giraffe Award

Photo 3: Norm Jones; Kimberly Littler, history student of the year, Dean John C. Allen

Photo 4: Dr. Cece Foxley, Sara Pedersen, the inaugural Foxley Fellow

A complete list of awards:

Friends of CHaSS

Robert Gross, ’72, founder of Robert C. Gross Associates

Christine Hult, professor emeritus of English; Nathan Hult, attorney


Teacher of the Year

Brock Dethier, professor of English


Researcher of the Year

Damon Cann, assistant professor of political science


Lecturer of the Year

Harrison Kleiner, lecturer of philosophy


Outstanding Employees – classified

Joe Kaili, IT support team

Annie Nielson, English department


Outstanding employee – professional

Chris Okelberry, IT director

Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher

Hannah Dulin, English department


Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor

Lisa Gabbert, associate professor of English


Graduate Instructor of the Year

Matt Cottrell, department of Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology

Graduate Researcher of the Year

Elizabeth Kiester, department of Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology


Ed Glatfelter Service Award

Frank Bacheller, department of languages, philosophy, and communication studies

Legacy Award

Tessa Ryser, English department


Scholar of the Year and 2012 College Valedictorian

Tasha Salibsury, History Education major

Carnegie Professor of the Year Nominee

JP Spicer-Escalante, associate professor of Spanish


Giraffe Award

Bonnie Glass-Coffin, professor of anthropology