Batten Faculty Recognized for Excellence in Teaching, Service, Research and Engagement

Garrett Hall
Garrett Hall, home of UVA's Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.

This academic year, Batten School professors won a slew of internal and external recognitions for excellence in teaching, top journal articles, outstanding public impact-focused research, meaningful contributions to diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, and more.

“One of the defining characteristics of the Batten School is the extraordinary quality of our faculty,” said Batten School Dean Ian Solomon. “There is not a more dedicated and outstanding team of interdisciplinary scholars and teachers anywhere in higher education. The awards and recognition our faculty received this year provide only a small glimpse into this group’s remarkable talent and dedication.”

Read about Batten’s 2022 award-winners below.

Armstead Robinson Faculty Award

Brian N. Williams, associate professor of public policy, was awarded the Armstead Robinson Faculty Award on May 31 by the UVA Black Faculty & Staff Employee Resource Group. The award is given annually to an exceptional Black faculty member who has contributed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and who has had a positive impact on the Black experience at the University.

Williams studies issues related to demographic diversity, local law enforcement, and public governance, with special attention devoted to the co-production of public safety and public order. He has served as a consultant, trainer and subject matter expert with police departments and governmental entities. This year, Williams led a two-day BattenX workshop called “Reimagining Policing: Procedural Policing to Procedural Justice” in collaboration with the Charlottesville Police Department and other local law enforcement entities.

Emerging Scholar Award

This week John Holbein, assistant professor of public policy and education, received an Emerging Scholar Award from Elections, Public Opinion, and Voting Behavior, a section of the American Political Science Association. The award recognizes a top scholar in the field who is within 10 years of receiving their Ph.D.

Holbein’s research centers on political participation and political inequality, and his book “Making Young Voters: Converting Civic Attitudes into Civic Action,” co-authored by D. Sunshine Hillygus, was published in 2020 by Cambridge University Press. Last year Holbein was one of five UVA faculty members to receive a 2020-21 Public Service Award for dedication to work that enhances student experiences and communities nearby and across the world.

Jefferson Scholars Foundation Award for Excellence in Teaching 

In April, Gabrielle Adams received an Award for Excellence in Teaching from the Jefferson Scholars Foundationwhich recognizes faculty members who have “endeavored selflessly to instill in their students the virtues of scholarship and love of learning.” Adams was one of eight UVA faculty members were selected by their peers for their exceptional teaching; the group received awards totaling $40,000.

Adams, an associate professor of public policy and business administration, studies organizational behavior and leads Batten’s Applied Public Policy and Leadership Experiments (APPLE) Lab. In 2021 she won an All-University Teaching Award, given by the provost.

“Professor Adams is dedicated to her students’ well-being and success,” said Maya Ewart (MPP ’22) in a recent article. At the APPLE Lab, she built a space that fosters curiosity and creativity. … No other professor has valued my voice or helped me grow the way Adams has.”

Public Impact-Focused Research Award

Molly Lipscomb, an associate professor of public policy and economics, received a Public Impact-Focused Research Award from the University at the third annual Research Achievement Awards ceremony in January.

Lipscomb’s work focuses largely on environmental issues in developing countries and adaptation to lack of centralized health and sanitation services.

“Lipscomb’s focus on building strong partnerships with organizations outside of higher education is both unique and useful, and it collapses the boundaries between academia and the real world in a productive way,” Solomon said in a UVA Today article earlier this year.

Riccucci-O’Leary Award

Last month, Craig Volden, with his co-author Rachel Augustine Potter, was awarded the Riccucci-O’Leary Award for Best Article on Diversity in a Public Management Research Conference Journal for their article “A Female Policy Premium? Agency Context and Women’s Leadership in the U.S. Federal Bureaucracy.”

The award committee wrote the following about the piece, which examines the policy impacts of women’s leadership: “The article has implications for leadership of agencies, representation of women across agencies, and the climate in these agencies. They analyze data from 500 agency leaders and the regulations produced by these agencies over three presidential administrations. … The study findings stress the importance of climate to creating workplaces that are supportive of women leadership, which is shown as critical for the success of women leaders and their ability to impact regulation writing in the policy process.”

Volden was honored at the Public Management Research Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, on May 26.

UVA Student Council 2022 Teaching Awards

Isaac Mbiti, associate professor of public policy and economics, and Peter Johannessen, assistant professor of public policy, each won a Student Council 2022 Teaching Award last month.

Batten students nominated the professors, highlighting their compassion, wisdom, and humor.  “We believe that these professors thoroughly deserve to be honored for their work this year,” said Adriana Gao, UVA Student Council’s director of academic affairs.

The professors were honored at a Student Council’s General Body Meeting on May 3, where they were each presented with a Jefferson Cup.

Z Society Distinguished Faculty Award

In May, the Z Society — one of the University’s secret societies — bestowed its 2022 Distinguished Faculty Award upon Dan Player, associate professor of public policy. The award is given annually to a member of the University faculty who serves as a notable leader and role model to those around them.

In Player’s award nomination, one student wrote, “He [Player] is always looking to uplift his students by going to student-run events, cheering us on at sporting events or by acknowledging and sharing our successes.” Another student of Player’s wrote, “He is led by a strong sense of integrity that sets an example for all of us.”

2022 Public Influence Rankings

Four Batten professors were ranked as some of the nation’s most influential education scholars in Education Week’s 2022 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings, released in January. Daphna Bassok, associate professor of education and public policy; Ben Castleman, Newton and Rita Meyers Associate Professor in the economics of education and associate professor of public policy; Sarah Turner, University Professor of economics, education and public policy; and Jim Wyckoff, professor of education and public policy, were among the 200 scholars deemed by a distinguished committee of 33 members to be highly influential.

Christine Mahoney, professor of public policy and politics, was honored on Apolitical’s 100 Most Influential Academics in Government list for her work on social justice advocacy, activism, and direct action through social entrepreneurship. Apolitical celebrated Mahoney’s work on refugee investing initiatives at the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

“At the Batten School, when we think about scholarship, we think about impact,” said Jay Shimshack in a Batten article. “These faculty members are making a real difference in the world. They are affecting policy, practice, research and public dialogue. We are thrilled to see them recognized, and we are proud to have them on our faculty.”  

Batten Faculty Awards

The Batten Faculty Awards are voted on yearly by the Batten Executive Committee to celebrate excellence in the four areas of faculty review: research, teaching, engagement and service. 

This year’s winners are:

Sophie Trawalter, associate professor of public policy and psychology, for “research”

Trawalter’s work focuses on stress and coping responses to interracial contact, with a special interest in how people learn to thrive in diverse spaces. The executive committee noted a “phenomenal” research year for Trawalter in 2021, including papers published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, American Psychologist, and the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, along with several articles about her research in the national press. 
Dan Player, associate professor of public policy, for “teaching”

At Batten, Player teaches courses on policy analysis, education policy, economics, and research methods. The executive committee noted he is a “wizard in the classroom” and celebrated “his commitment to student mentoring, his remarkably strong student qualitative feedback, his commitment to constant pedagogical improvement, and his balance of theory and practice through detailed videos and integration of ethics into research methods courses.”
Kirsten Gelsdorf, professor of practice of public policy, for “engagement”

Gelsdorf is director of Global Humanitarian Policy at the Batten School and co-directs the UVA Humanitarian Collaborative, which works to develop policy to support the needs of vulnerable populations caught in humanitarian crises. The executive committee noted her “impactful and diverse engagement partnerships on humanitarian leadership.” Partners included the Sesame Street Workshop, the German government, the United Nations, the Humanitarian Innovation Fund, Moving Minds Alliance, and the World Economic Forum. The executive committee particularly valued Gelsdorf’s “concrete and visible outcomes including numerous engagement publications, high profile advisory positions, and integration of students into real-world practice.”

Jay Shimshack, professor of public policy and economics, for “service”

The executive committee presented this year’s service award to Shimshack for his “tireless dedication to the Batten School in serving and excelling in his role as associate dean for academic affairs throughout this tumultuous year.” Shimshack’s performance as associate dean is “outstanding and unflappable,” the executive committee said, and added that Shimshack is known for his “accessibility and good judgment.”

To select each year’s awardees, the Batten Executive Committee performs a peer review of faculty annual reports. The winners receive a letter from the dean, a small monetary award, and their names installed on a plaque in the Great Hall. 

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