May 21, 2011
This award is given each year "for excellence in teaching and scholarship, contributions to the academic community through active and positive relations with colleagues and students, and an involved concern for humanity." Saint Anselm prides itself on a faculty that are experts in their field and distinguished scholars while still being fully dedicated to students and the classroom, and the recipient this year perfectly exemplifies that aspiration.
She is a respected scholar of post-civil war history, especially the role of women in the anti-slavery movement. Her well-received book, Sister Societies, examines the women who formed organizations to abolish southern slavery and the networking and mentoring relationships they formed. In her own words, her research reflects a "fascination with people who choose to make change in the world, who are able to organize and inspire others others, and who write perceptively about the challenges of those tasks." These words could equally describe this year's recipient.
As a Fullbright Scholar in 2007-08, she spent a year in South Korea meeting with Korean students in American Studies courses to discuss race and gender, American political traditions, and contemporary American culture. One of the high points of that year were the updates and photos of her trip that she posted on the college blog. Even on her sabbatical she undertook the project of educating us on the hospitality and grace of Korean Culture. Both at home and abroad she has been an ambassador for the Anselmian way and the values of a liberal education.
But one only has to speak to this year's winner a moment to discover that her real love is working with students. When you talk to her students, you will hear, of course, of how demanding her courses are and the rigors of her grading, but mostly you hear of the sincerity of her concern for their well being, the generosity with her time and attention, and her dedication to the craft of teaching. All of this has manifested itself in the recipient's work as founding director of the new Center for Teaching Excellence on campus, where her energy and dedication have flowered into a myriad of workshops and mentoring programs that enrich our faculty and benefit our students. In her own words, "Teaching is really about mentoring, about helping a student to fulfill both their academic and personal potential. At its base, teaching is about building relationships, getting students to trust that you have their best interests at heart. The relationships with the students, in the present and the future, make teaching worth doing-for the people on both sides of the desk." These principles have guided the work of the 2011 winner of the AAUP Distinguished Faculty Award, Dr. Beth Salerno.