Recognizing outstanding faculty and staff

Faculty and staff award winners were honored for exceptional service, teaching, and leadership in a virtual ceremony held Oct. 6.

Every fall, Arts & Sciences presents a series of awards to faculty and staff in recognition of extraordinary contributions to the effectiveness of teaching, advising, counseling, and research in Arts & Sciences. 

This year, the Outstanding Staff Awards were presented to Alex Brown, Brian Harting, Sarah O’Donnell, Stephen Scordias, and Erin Lewis for their exemplary service. Julianne Smutz was honored with the Advancement Award, which is presented to a member of the University Advancement team who makes a significant contribution to Arts & Sciences. Lisa Siddens received the Dean's Award, which goes to a Washington University employee outside of Arts & Sciences who has had a significant impact on our community. 

Several faculty awards were also given at the ceremony. Three exceptional educators were honored with the Distinguished Teaching Award in Arts & Sciences: Arpita Bose, Michelle Purdy, and Younasse Tarbouni. The Faculty Leadership Award, which acknowledges a faculty member for exceptional service to the university, was awarded to Deanna Barch. The David Hadas Teaching Award, which recognizes a tenured faculty member in Arts & Sciences who demonstrates commitment and excellence in teaching first-year undergraduates, was presented to Andrew Reeves.

Congratulations to the 2020–21 awardees! Read excerpts from their nomination letters below.

Outstanding Staff Awards

Alex Brown,* Brian Harting, Sarah Massey O’Donnell, and Stephen Scordias

Members of the Arts & Sciences Administrative Cluster

The Arts & Sciences Administrative Cluster supports the faculty and students of five academic units: the departments of History, Classics, and Jewish, Islamic, and Middle Eastern Studies; and the programs in Religious Studies and Comparative Literature. Staff members in this cluster are remarkably efficient and adaptive, capable of stepping in for each other at a moment’s notice. When COVID disrupted normal university activities, the cluster demonstrated just how valuable it is to have a support system based on flexibility and shared knowledge. As individuals, each member of the cluster responded to unprecedented challenges with exceptional commitment and professionalism. But as a team they exceeded the sum of their parts. They modeled how all of us at the university can come together to do our jobs, collaborate with each other, and support those around us.

*Alex Brown recently left the university. We wish her the best in her future endeavors and are pleased to include her as an award recipient. 

Erin Lewis

Administrative Coordinator to the Chair in the Department of English 

Erin’s work has been described by her team as not just indispensable but transformative. She turns her routine duties, like scheduling meetings or organizing information, into constant opportunities for rethinking and developing the work underway. As a collaborator, she helps department leadership talk though situations that may be complex and difficult. In these conversations, she shows understanding of the complex issues at play, and she works to test and develop responses to and strategies for addressing those problems. Fellow team members mention Erin’s “unflappable good nature,” and they describe her as the most capable, responsible, and warm-hearted staff member they’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. She picks up new tasks with record speed, takes great care to check in with other staff members, and somehow holds everything together to make even the hardest days feel possible.


The Advancement Award

Julianne Smutz 

Senior Associate Director of Advancement for Arts & Sciences

Julianne is a strong fundraiser who routinely exceeds her fundraising goals for A&S. She is also a trusted philanthropic advisor to the many alumni and supporters with whom she’s built long-lasting relationships. In addition to working with supporters around the world and in the U.S., she also manages the Scholars in Arts & Sciences program, which awards more than 700 donor-funded undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships each year. Julianne’s efforts in the Scholars in Arts & Sciences Program help support students from diverse backgrounds, ensuring that financial hurdles do not keep talented students from joining our community. Maintaining momentum for our scholarship programs throughout the pandemic was of critical importance, especially at such a financially turbulent moment.


The Dean’s Award

Lisa Siddens 

Assistant Provost and Senior Advisor 

Lisa has been instrumental in implementing Provost Office initiatives that positively impact Arts & Sciences, including the re-organization of graduate education. Her work supports efforts in this area, and she has also been an excellent resource for the interim vice dean of graduate education, Sophia Hayes. Lisa is incredibly organized and effective. She brings order to complex initiatives that involve many moving pieces and crowded schedules, making the whole process more pleasant and efficient. Additionally, while chairing the search committee that would ultimately bring Feng Sheng Hu as Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences, she served as an amazing champion of the University and of Arts & Sciences.


Distinguished Teaching Award in Arts & Sciences

Arpita Bose

Associate Professor of Biology 

As the nomination letter says: “It is not often you come across an individual who is able and willing to seamlessly combine their passion for education and service as well as their clear commitment to underserved students, even in a school like Washington University. Dr. Bose, however, manages to do so without hesitation. Within an educational setting she is firm, kind, and able to clearly explain topics in a variety of ways to ensure those who take her class are able to truly learn and comprehend the material. Outside of the classroom she has been known to have an open door for easy connection, and students who know her, know they can trust her.”


Michelle Purdy

Associate Professor of Education and Director of the Undergraduate program in Educational Studies 

Michelle’s exemplary commitment to teaching happens both behind the scenes and in the classroom. As Curriculum Committee Chair for the Department of Education, she oversees the curricula and course offerings, shaping the overall student experience in the department. As director of the Educational Studies program, she advises more than 50 undergraduate majors and minors, curates the curriculum, and organizes programming for students. As the nomination letter says: “Put simply, Dr. Purdy is the heart and soul of our Educational Studies program and she epitomizes the ideal recipient of this award.”


Younasse Tarbouni

Teaching Professor of Arabic 

One student in the course “Ampersand: Mediterranean Migration” noted that “Dr. Tarbouni’s ability to present complicated topics in a digestible, informative, and meaningful manner is a testament to his skill as an amazing instructor. Especially in this year of great stress and turmoil, Dr. Tarbouni’s compassion has remained a stable force in aiding the mental health and alleviating the stress of students around him.” Another student, who recently took Arabic 107 and 108, wrote: “As an incoming first-year student, I was very anxious about transitioning to such a challenging school like Washington University in St. Louis. However, after spending a year with Dr. Tarbouni, I feel much more equipped with the tools I need to succeed. Dr. Tarbouni is the most caring, sincere, and creative professor that I have ever had the honor to study under.”


Faculty Leadership Award

Deanna Barch

Chair and Professor of Psychological & Brain Sciences and the Gregory B. Couch Professor of Psychiatry 

As the Arts & Sciences Strategic Planning steering committee co-chair, along with Abram Van Engen, Deanna has shepherded the planning process. Thanks in large part to her dedication and organization, the steering committee has collected and organized comments and material from across Arts & Sciences, and the strategic plan document is nearing completion. Deanna is also bringing her expertise to our university-wide strategic plan, as a member of the WashU strategic planning committee. From 2018–19, Deanna served as Dean of Faculty Development in Arts & Sciences. In that role, she organized workshops and events to guide faculty as they progress in their careers. As chair of the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences since 2014, she has successfully led one of the largest and most highly recognized departments at the university. Her ongoing professional leadership includes numerous roles, including serving as the current chair of the Psychiatry section of AAAS.

Amidst her extensive research and teaching responsibilities, Deanna has become an active, trusted, and relied upon leader in her field, her department, Arts & Sciences, and Washington University as a whole.


David Hadas Teaching Award

Andrew Reeves

Professor and Associate Chair of Political Science 

Since 2014 Andrew has taught “Introduction to Political Science,” a popular course that regularly enrolls more than 200 students. Over the years Andrew has found innovative ways to make this intro course even more enriching. In 2016, he organized the students to participate in a nationwide election observation study. Nearly a hundred students visited precincts in St. Louis in teams of two, spending two-hour shifts recording voting line lengths and other information. After that election, Andrew won a classroom innovation grant to refresh his course in light of new questions and challenges raised by the Trump Presidency.

Last year, as part of the Beyond Boundaries program, Andrew and a colleague developed a new interdisciplinary course aimed exclusively at first-years. The class, “The Business of Elections,” merged business and political science perspectives to help students understand presidential campaigns. In this course, Andrew found ways to forge connections with first-year students who felt disconnected from campus while studying remotely, including organizing a presidential debate watch party over Zoom. Also in 2020, he led the way in moving courses online, leading the Department of Political Science’s faculty online teaching workshop.