I’m always impressed with the resilience of our community, and the members of the University of Nevada, Reno faculty are no exception! During a pandemic, these professors at the university’s College of Liberal Arts demonstrated what the pursuit of excellence looks like in the face of adversity.

At Dickson Realty, we like to keep tabs on how our local university is engaging in our community. I’m also proud to be a member of the University of Nevada, Reno College of Liberal Arts Dean’s Advisory Board. So, I sat down with Debra Moddelmog, the college’s dean, to discuss these recent accomplishments from some of the University of Nevada, Reno faculty members.

After the past year we’ve all had, I’d like to celebrate some wins—and I heard the University of Nevada, Reno faculty at the College of Liberal Arts has been raking them in!

Moddelmog: Despite the challenges of conducting research during a pandemic, faculty in our College of Liberal Arts, University of Nevada, Reno faculty have received several prestigious awards from external funders this year. It has truly been a banner year. 

Included among these awardees are:

Deborah Boehm, Ph.D., received an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, which is given to only 26 scholars selected across the nation out of more than 300 nominees. Professor Boehm is a professor and chair of the Department of Gender, Race, and Identity, as well as a professor of Anthropology.  She has published two books on immigration control, detention, and deportation in the 21st century. The Carnegie Fellowship will provide her with substantial time and financial support to continue this work by examining multiple unseen spaces of immigration detention within and beyo
nd U.S. borders.

Renata Keller, Ph.D., received a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Public Scholars Fellowship, which is awarded to about 24 scholars each year out of an average of 278 applicants. Keller is a Latin Americanist in the Department of History who focuses on the Cold War and international history. Her first book, Mexico’s Cold War: Cuba, the United States, and the Legacy of the Mexican Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2015) was awarded several national prizes. During her NEH fellowship year, she will work on her second book, tentatively titled Nuclear Reactions: The Cuban Missile Crisis and Cold War in Latin America, which is a hemispheric history of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Caitlin Earley, Ph.D., accomplished a special feat of receiving both a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship and an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship. For most scholars, being awarded one of these prestigious fellowships would be viewed as the achievement of a career, but Earley was honored with both in the same year. An art historian who studies the art of Latin America with a particular focus on ancient Maya sculpture, Earley will focus her fellowship year on a book project Bound in Rope, Bound in Stone: The Captive Body in Late Classic Maya Art, which explores the role and identity that Maya captives have in Late Classic Maya stone sculpture. According to Earley, “For a long time, it was just assumed that the captives that we see on Maya sculptures were killed or sacrificed, [but] it looks like there were a lot of potential fates for Maya captives,” thus changing our view that they were simply disempowered victims.

Elizabeth Koebele, Ph.D., received one of the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards, the CAREER Award. It is given in support of early-career faculty who can serve as academic role models in research and education and lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. An assistant professor of political science, Koebele is an expert in environmental policy, especially regarding water (with a focus on the Colorado River and Lake Tahoe Basin) and wildfires. She is particularly interested in how collaborative approaches to policy-making might reshape how we approach problems of water scarcity and competing claims to water rights. The CAREER Award will support her research in this area.

In addition, our faculty received significant state and university recognition this year, including teaching awards as well as research awards. 

Kyra Stull, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Anthropology, received the Regents’ Rising Researcher Award. Most of her current research focuses on identifying subadults (which include individuals from birth to 20 years) through the creation and development of age and sex estimation techniques and the impact of population structure on the pattern of modern human variation. 

Matthew Leone, Ph.D., received the F. Donald Tibbitts Distinguished Teacher Award, one of the major teaching awards given to University of Nevada, Reno faculty. Leone is an associate professor and graduate director in the Department of Criminal Justice. He has a long-standing reputation of being an excellent teacher, and this award formalizes that.

Geoffrey M. Smith, Ph.D., was named a 2021 Nevada Regents’ Teaching Award honoree. The Executive Director of the Great Basin Paleoindian Research Unit in the Department of Anthropology, Smith primarily focuses on the archaeology of the Pleistocene-Holocene transition. He has been recognized several times as an outstanding teacher at the University, but the Regents’ award situates his teaching excellence in comparison with that of other college instructors across the state, a major achievement. 

Markus Kemmelmeier, Ph.D., was named a Foundation Professor, the highest award given to the University of Nevada, Reno faculty for distinguished records in research, teaching, and service. Kemmelmeier’s title is now Foundation Professor of Sociology; he is also the Director of the Social Psychology program, which offers both a Master’s degree and a Ph.D. With respect to scholarship, Kemmelmeier has more than 100 publications, including 77 peer-reviewed journal articles; he also has a strong record of extramural funding having received grants totaling more than $500,000. Add to all of this a history of being a superb teacher and mentor, and it’s easy to see why Kemmelmeier has been named a UNR Foundation Professor.

Receiving this number of major awards and fellowships in one year indicates the quality, importance, and expected impact of the humanities, arts, and social science research being conducted by our faculty and helps to substantiate UNR’s status as a “Research Very High (R1) institution, a designation given to only 131 institutions of higher education in the United States.

That’s quite a list of accomplishments from the University of Nevada, Reno faculty! 

Moddelmog: We’re very proud of these awards. Another type of recognition that I’d like to draw attention to is the amount of funding our college has received to support research and other creative work. Thus far this year, faculty in our college have received more than $1.5 million in grants and fellowships. 

Can you offer us a sneak peek into some other positive news coming up for the college?

Moddelmog: We’re part of a university project that will feature profiles of recent university alumni on banners placed along the footpath connecting the historic part of the campus to the newly constructed areas. Our featured alumni include: 

  • Grace Miller (B.A. Philosophy and Political Science, 2017; hired as an Associate with Cravath, Swaine, and Moore, one of the most prestigious law firms in the U.S.)
  • Jilliann Paraguirre (B.A. Art, 2017; currently Outreach Manager, Western Folklife Center)
  • Mari Jose Urbina (B.A. Political Science and Journalism, 2008; currently the Managing Director, Indivisible Project)
  • Steven Haines (B.A. International Affairs, 2009; currently serving as Foreign Affairs Officer, China Desk, U.S. Department of State)

These are only a few of our alumni who have demonstrated that our degrees prepare students for all sorts of successful careers after graduation.

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