December 16, 2023

CHaSS Faculty Again Honored at Inaugural Lectures

Retired Professor Candi Carter Olson and her husband talk with JCOM faculty at Carter Olson's lecture.

Retired Professor Candi Carter Olson (seated) and her husband talk with JCOM faculty Chris Garff and Brian Champagne at Carter Olson's inaugural lecture on Oct. 17, 2023. (Photo credit: Susan Polster)

By Andrea DeHaan, CHaSS Communications Editor  

Utah State University President’s Office recently held receptions for this year’s round of inaugural lectures. Three recently promoted faculty in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences presented thoughtful reflections on their research and the events that paved the way to this career milestone.

Held in honor of faculty who are promoted from the role of associate professor to full professor, these annual events see professors recognized at a reception followed by a short presentation about their work. The 2023 lectures were again held in the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, featuring an invite-only catered reception attended by friends and family as well as representatives from the President’s Office and the college. It is also customary to include the faculty member’s promotion and tenure committee.

“It is my privilege to introduce to you someone you already know,” joked Joseph P. Ward, dean of the college, before Professor Claudia Schwabe’s presentation on Nov. 15.

Schwabe, a professor of German, was among this year’s CHaSS honorees, including retired Professor of Journalism Candi Carter Olson and Professor of Spanish and Applied Linguistics Joshua Thoms. Keri Holt (English) and Sarah Gordon (French) were also promoted to the rank of full professor this year.

Because Schwabe’s research is often focused on fairy tales and their use in contemporary media and teaching, she aptly recounted her journey through the lens of folktales. Using Vladimir Propp’s fairy tale functions, Schwabe talked about the heroine leaving her home in Germany, encountering obstacles, making alliances, and combatting the villains — a term she used in jest to acknowledge identifiable struggles that academics face in getting their start and seeing their work acknowledged.

“A false hero is usually the one who takes credit for your own accomplishments and was trying to marry the prince or princess,” said Schwabe who considered the false hero in her story the thoughts of self-doubt and imposter syndrome she experienced early in her career. 

Carter Olson also reflected on the importance of finding a supportive cohort during her academic journey and dedicated her Oct. 17 talk to what she termed “my beautiful academic family.”

She discussed the challenges of being a media practitioner in the current climate, particularly for women journalists, and drew several parallels to academia, where Carter Olson likewise struggled to find her place.  

In his Nov. 6 presentation, Thoms chose to focus on the mentors who had inspired and supported him on his path to full professor. Originally from a small town in Iowa, Thoms credited a high school teacher with helping him appreciate the value of hard work by initially recruiting him to paint houses. That same teacher later inspired Thoms to take Spanish — a move he called “pivotal.”

What started with high school Spanish classes would lead Thoms to his first international experience studying abroad in Argentina.

“I convinced my dad to use the sale of livestock to buy my [ticket],” Thoms said, noting the international flight was his first time on a plane.

From there, Thoms highlighted the many college and graduate school faculty who gave him opportunities to meet other scholars in the field and begin building a network of people who would support him as he transitioned from a high school Spanish teacher to a college professor focused on effective models for language teaching.

Taken together, this year’s group of CHaSS honorees paid homage to the people who encouraged them, even when they felt like outsiders. In doing so, their presentations underscored the impact a supportive educator can have on the lives and careers of their students.

“They’re why I’m here,” said Carter Olson.

For a full list of CHaSS academic promotions for the 2023-2024 year, please refer to this article: https://chass.usu.edu/liberalis/news/archive/spring-2023/promotions-chss-2023

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