Recognizing excellence within the Arts community

At the final Faculty Council meeting each year, the Faculty hands out its internal awards to faculty and staff members and to students. The presentation took place this year on April 9th. Professor Tabitha Sparks, Associate Dean, Research and Graduate Studies presented all faculty and student awards; Professor Sharon Bond, School of Social Work, presented the staff member award.

The Arts Distinction in Research Award is awarded to a faculty member who has made outstanding research contributions to their field. It alternates between "emerging" and "senior" scholars. This year the award went to an emerging scholar. The H. Noel Fieldhouse Award recognizes outstanding teaching in the Faculty. The recipient is officially presented with the award by the Principal at Convocation in June. The Arts Award of Excellence for Administrative and Support Staff alternates between management and clerical/technical staff.

Just as the Faculty recognizes outstanding research and teaching by its faculty members, so too, does it recognize the same by it graduate students. The Arts Dissertation Awards recognize excellence in doctoral research. PhD students who defended their dissertation during the previous calendar year may be nominated. Two awards are given: one in the Humanities and one in the Social Sciences. The Graduate Student Teaching Awards recognize excellence in teaching by its graduate students. All full-time Arts graduate students in good standing who are Teaching Assistants or Course Lecturers are eligible for this award.

Below are the citations read for each of this year’s award winners.

Congratulations to all of the recipients.

Faculty Awards

Michael Van Dussen – Department of English – 2019 Arts Distinction in Research Award

Professor Michael Van Dussen is well known in North America and Europe for his work on medieval manuscripts, literacy, religious controversies, and networks. His monograph, From England to Bohemia: Heresy and Communication in the Later Middle Ages, is the first book-length study of the influential cultural and religious exchanges that took place between England and Bohemia in the late fourteenth century. His current project, Media Shift: Manuscripts and Encyclopedism in Late-Medieval Europe, will analyze the interplay between late-medieval religious politics and manuscript culture at a time when book production, circulation, readership, and collecting outpaced these activities in any previous period of European history. He is described as “a colleague whose contributions to the study of English literature and global literary culture are paradigmatic of the kind of excellence the award is meant to discern.”

Alia Al-Saji -- Department of Philosophy – H. Noel Fieldhouse Award for Distinguished Teaching

No matter the size of the course, however, Professor Alia Al-Saji is known for consistently drawing her students into the subject matter. It is her own deep engagement with the material that enables her to provide the nuanced analyses that illuminate current problems and debates in public discourse. Her courses familiarize students with foundational texts, and introduce them to methodologies that interrogate, widely held assumptions, pulling them out of their comfort zones and equipping them to challenge others’ assumptions. Moreover, they challenge students’ conceptions of what we mean by philosophy. Professor Al-Saji’s students return to her classroom knowing that they will leave with more than just an understanding of the course material.

Dr. Reilley Caitlin Bishop-Stall: 2019 Arts Dissertation Award in the Humanities

Dr. Bishop-Stall’s dissertation, entitled Unsettling the Archive: Intervention and Parody in Contemporary Indigenous Photography, investigates the work of contemporary Indigenous artists in North America whose artistic production brings to the fore, questions, and reorients, the role of photography in the enduring processes of settler colonialism. It examines photography as one of the main twentieth-century mediums of representation of Indigenous peoples (First Nations and Metis communities) and as a medium privileged by Indigenous artists to contest that history. As one of the first scholarly examinations of contemporary North American Indigenous art, its focus on photographic practices has established the longue durée of photography both as a visual culture explored to reinforce settler colonialism and as an artistic practice of resistance against colonialism. It has also disclosed some of the most innovative investigations by North American Indigenous artists. Dr. Bishop-Stall currently holds a postdoctoral position at Concordia University.

Ilyan Ferrer: 2019 Arts Dissertation Award in the Social Sciences

Dr. Ilyan Ferrer’s dissertation, Aging in the context of immigration and care labour: The experiences of older Filipinos in Canada, challenges the idea that the labour contributions of racialized immigrant communities are best understood by examining only the realities of ‘working age’ people engaged in the primary labour market. He argues that this renders invisible the active labour contributions of older racialized immigrants who are more likely to participate in secondary labour markets and through care giving exchanges within both the family and the community. Using critical ethnography and narrative approaches, Dr. Ferrer addresses issues of access and equity within the Filipino community and connects labour to social and health policies directed to this community. His theoretical framework combines approaches in social gerontology – “the life course” – with critical race theory and critical race feminism – also known as “intersectionality”. Dr. Ferrer is currently Assistant Professor of Social Work at the University of Calgary.

Graduate Teaching Awards

Christopher Rice – Department of English

Chris is a naturally gifted as a teacher, driven by a quietly evident mission to convey the excitement of intellectual engagement, critical thinking, and literary analysis in a variety of classroom settings. Since he entered the doctoral program at McGill in 2015, he has continued to explore new pedagogical approaches, always working hard to develop his craft. Students praise Chris’s passion, enthusiasm, and sense of fun, but equally his patience, clarity, and organization. Above all else, they recognize and appreciate the care he puts into his teaching. He challenges them to think creatively, interpretatively, and critically in order to develop and improve our own skills in understanding texts.

Paolo Saporito – Languages, Literatures, and Cultures – Italian Studies

Paolo teaches the Elementary Italian language course, has been a visiting lecturer for language and culture courses at the Italian Cultural Institute and has also been a Teaching Assistant for film seminars in Italian Studies. His work is informed by a philosophy that sees the classroom as a platform for sharing and enriching his intellectual interests. While he is intellectually demanding in the classroom, he has a winning, warm personality and an open attitude that encourages the exploration and questioning of ideas by his students. For Paolo, the interaction with students is a civic and political act that fosters collaborative critical thinking.

Sabeena Shaikh – Institute of Islamic Studies

Sabeena Shaikh has taught and is currently teaching two full-year levels of the Urdu-Hindi language course at the Institute of Islamic Studies. She has breathed life into the Urdu-Hindi language program through her learned, effective, and passionate teaching. The innovations she has introduced into these courses have made the learning of the language a cultural experience. She communicates her infectious enthusiasm for South Asian culture through her teaching methods by incorporating a much greater use cultural materials relevant to the grammar being taught and builds her lesson plans around South Asian holidays and observances. These all serve to engage the students extremely effectively and brings relevancy to learning a language.

Staff Award

Lillian Ianonne –Arts Award of Excellence for Administrative and Support Staff

Over her 45-year career, she has supported programmatic changes, and introduced new strategies to handle recruitment, streamline admissions and all aspects of program development. She is always available to attend to the most detailed requests from students and from faculty alike, supporting everyone through periods of anxiety and stress. She represents the collective memory of the department over almost a half-century span. Her career has spanned multiple directors, and she has seen the arrivals and departures of many faculty members. Lillian is often the only staff in the department remembering their academic and social contributions to the School and to the field. Over her long career, Lillian has contributed to the development of new graduate programs (PhD, MSW, and MScA, to name a few). She currently supports five graduate programs within the School, as well as the student record component of the BSW program. Collaborating with all program directors and university units, Lillian provides the secure base to track students’ progress from the pre-application phase and through all phases of their academic cycle until graduation. Over the decades, Lillian has formed relationships with students and has witnessed their contribution from student life, to their world outside the university.


Back to top