SBS Names 2008 Magellan Circle Award Winners

SBS Names 2008 Magellan Circle Award Winners

By Social and Behavioral Sciences
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Four faculty members in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at The University of Arizona have received Magellan Circle Awards – three for excellence in teaching and one for excellence in advising/mentoring.

The awards, which include a $1,500 cash prize for each winner, are funded by the Magellan Circle – a society that, through its donations, supports the Dean’s Fund for Excellence. The fund sponsors teaching awards, student scholarships and faculty research projects.

This year's teaching award winners are Susan M. Knight, assistant professor of practice in the department of journalism; V. Spike Peterson, professor in the department of political science; and Dereka Rushbrook, adjunct lecturer in the department of geography and regional development. The winner of the advising/mentoring award is Laura Langer, associate professor in the department of political science.

Knight has served for the past four years as the journalism department’s curriculum coordinator. A reporter and editor for nearly 20 years, Knight focused on public affairs reporting, especially education issues, and earned more than two dozen awards for her work.

She has been recognized by her peers across the country as a leader in developing innovative teaching practices. Knight also has been an effective professional mentor for students. "She spends hours each week talking with individual students about their job expectations, and helping them write resumes and prepare for job interviews," wrote Jacqueline Sharkey, head of the UA journalism department. "Student nominations have praised Professor Knight’s cutting-edge instruction, mentoring activities outside class, and deep interest in helping each individual achieve academic and professional success."

Peterson studies feminist international relations theory, global political economy, nationalism, democratization, heterosexism, human rights, and critical poststructuralist and feminist theory.

"I was in Professor Peterson’s feminist political theory class and can easily say it was one of the high points of my undergrad career," wrote a student. "I have several classmates who would testify the same. Aside from character strengths that Professor Peterson brings to her work – infectious enthusiasm, creativity, patience, wisdom and mastery of the theory – she organized this class in a way that I feel truly expanded the horizons of all of the students."

Rushbrook teaches three to four courses each semester and does extensive advising with students.

"On any given morning or afternoon, there will be a long line of students outside Dereka's office waiting to chat with her – to hear her advice on a class project, to discuss future courses or potential internships, or to chat about graduate school," wrote J.P. Jones, head of geography and regional development. "On top of this, Dereka is one of the most popular teachers in our department. Yet she is always demanding and never relaxes her standards."

Langer teaches courses on judicial process and behavior, civil liberties, law and public policy and American state institutions.

"Professor Langer spends a great deal of time working one-on-one with her students to make sure they are prepared to succeed on the job market," said William Dixon, head of the political science department. "Also, as director of graduate studies, she serves as academic adviser to all first-year students and is responsible for weekly workshops aimed at helping students better understand the norms, expectations and values of professional political science. Laura Langer has been a model mentor, not only of her own students, but for all of those in our graduate program."

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