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Mead awards faculty grants

Endowment money funds 10 professors’ ‘dream ideas,’ aims to strengthen student, teacher relations

The Mead Endowment Advisory Board recognized 10 professors’ commitment to honoring a tradition of mentorship and off-campus learning. At its 11th annual dinner Saturday evening in Alumni Hall the endowment reaffirmed its mission of ensuring that quality interactions between professors and their students are not lost.

The nine College professors and lone Darden professor will receive honoree grants this fall to fund “Dream Ideas,” projects that will strengthen relationships between faculty and their students by facilitating their social interaction.

Former students of Ernest “Boots” Mead, a former University music professor, founded the endowment to honor Mead’s legacy. Although Mead officially retired in 1996, he continues to lead a fourth-year seminar every spring.

“He [Mead] touched so many students over so many years,” said Tom Darbyshire, the board’s chairman and a 1982 University graduate. “The purpose of the grants is to encourage more faculty to walk in the footsteps of Boots.”

Mead fund recipient Assistant Arabic Prof. Hanadi Al-Samman said she wanted to use the grant to organize cultural nights and a trip to Washington D.C. to enhance students’ understanding of Middle Eastern culture and the Arab Spring.

“I hope to show students that what we’re studying in class is not detached from what is currently going on in the Middle East,” she said.

The alumni group also presented the first ever Kinnier award to Assoc. Engineering Prof. Dana Elzey, who plans to use the funds to create a project that pairs Engineering School students with high-schoolers to encourage them to pursue engineering degrees.

As part of Elzey’s proposed plan, third-year Engineering students would visit local high schools to present engineering concepts to students that attract them to future careers in the field.

“All students are looking for that one-on-one relationship with their professors and this is another opportunity to engage with them,” Engineering Dean Jim Aylor said.

The board also announced an initiative Saturday to award $20 “Mead Money” vouchers to every faculty member in the College. Jennifer Erickson, a member of the endowment’s board and 1998 College alumna, said in an email that faculty members should use the money to take students out to eat on Grounds to foster the faculty-student interaction embodied by the Mead Endowment.

“The two announcements this year really extend the reach of the endowment and will hopefully continue to foster the great interactions in and out of the classroom that the University is known for,” Erickson said.

Other recipients of the endowment included Assoc. Art History Prof. Matthew Affron, Assoc. Music Prof. Ted Coffey, Assoc. English Prof. Jennifer Greeson, Assistant Physics Prof. Craig Group, Assistant Biology Prof. Melissa A. Henriksen, East Asian Studies Lecturer Tomoko Marshall, Assistant Drama Prof. Caitlin McLeod, Assoc. Italian Prof. Adrienne Ward and Assistant Darden Prof. Yael Grushka-Cockayne.