CMC faculty honored for high-caliber achievements

Faculty Awards Celebration, May 7, 2024.

Photos by Anibal Ortiz

President Chodosh speaking at the Faculty Award Celebration.

Retirement celebration

Claremont McKenna College formally paid tribute to James Nichols Jr. P'06, Professor of Government and Dr. Jules L. Whitehill Professor of Humanism and Ethics, for his 45 years at CMC.

Heather Antecol, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty, and Boswell Professor of Economics, led a celebration that recognized Nichols’ retirement. “Before he starts this next chapter of his life, I’m very grateful for this opportunity to honor his contributions to our community,” she said.

Antecol described Nichols’ scholarly achievements and noted that he taught courses in Political Philosophy and History, Foreign Policy, and Political Rhetoric, among others, in addition to a Freshman Humanities Seminar, and various graduate seminars at CGU, in his capacity as an Avery Fellow. “His primary area of expertise is political philosophy, a field he in which he has published numerous articles and books,” she continued.

Nichols shared that he is “closely connected to CMC in many ways. Not only have I been a professor here for most of my academic career, I am also roughly the same age as CMC (in fact, two years older). My wife, Merle Stern, registered as a special student at CMC for our first year here, to take two pre-med biology courses—and she gets messages referring to her as '83, a designation of which she is fond. We are also both P '06, since our son David graduated from CMC in 2006. I look forward in retirement to experiencing the continuing relationship to CMC of professor emeritus.”

In addition, the retirement of the following faculty members have been announced:

  • Craig Bowman, Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychological Science;
  • Associate Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, Cynthia Humes; and
  • Professor Robert Valenza, the Dengler-Dykema Chair of Mathematics and the Humanities.

Claremont McKenna College’s world-class faculty were recently celebrated for their scholarly achievements and stellar teaching, and formally acknowledged for their milestone anniversaries and enduring impact on the College.

CMC President Hiram Chodosh recognized Hilary Appel, the Podlich Family Professor of Government and George R. Roberts Fellow, with the 2023-24 Presidential Award for Merit, one of Claremont McKenna College’s highest honors.

“This year’s awardee has made invaluable contributions on each dimension of what we do best — our triple threat — outstanding scholarship, superb teaching, and especially selfless, high-impact leadership and service to the College, our nation, and the world — not only in major academic publications, but as a powerful voice in the media to help people understand and grapple with major global events,” Chodosh said of Appel. In addition, he noted that she has “an engaged open, clear and demanding approach that has stretched our students to new heights over nearly 25 years.”

Heather Antecol, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dean of the Faculty and Boswell Professor of Economics, led the annual celebration of faculty awards on April 12, focused on scholarly achievements, which she said, “showcased the talent, creativity and dedication of all of you.”

 Professor Hilary Appel celebrates with CMC faculty colleagues.

Professor Hilary Appel celebrates with CMC faculty colleagues.

“As always, I’m impressed and humbled to witness the many ways all of you have continued to bring the best of yourselves to our students, to your research, and most of all to each other,” said Antecol, citing the impressive numbers achieved by the faculty as a whole in the 2023 calendar year. “Collectively, we published 150 peer-reviewed journal articles, 28 book chapters, 13 books, as well as book reviews and op-eds …, and also received 32 external grants ... what a testament to the caliber of our faculty!”

Lars Schmitz, Kravis Associate Professor of Integrated Sciences: Biology, who received CMC’s 2023 Faculty Scholarship Award, delivered the ceremony’s keynote address, “Understanding life’s past to predict life’s future —a paleontological perspective on biodiversity loss and climate change.”

Here are this year’s faculty award-winners.

Professor Rob Valenza, Dengler-Dykema Chair of Mathematics and the Humanities  
G. David Huntoon Senior Teaching Award

“This is Rob’s fifth Huntoon award, which is such a testament to his skills, teaching, and connection with his students,” Antecol said of Valenza, who is retiring this year. One student nominator shared: “He makes every student feel seen and heard. He is calm, understanding and inspiring.” And another said: “He takes time in each class to connect calculus to broader themes like art, reasoning and philosophy. His classes have been the highlight of my time at CMC.”

Associate Professor of Philosophy, Rima Basu 
Glenn R. Huntoon Award for Superior Teaching

“Professor Basu cares deeply about her students’ success and grounds philosophical concepts in day-to-day life, making them extremely accessible,” said one student nominator. “She invokes deep conversations and intellectually challenges us … she is the reason I hoped to take more Philosophy classes, or even switch my major. We loved her classes because of how approachable she was.”

Cathy Reed, McElwee Family Professor of Psychology and George R. Roberts Fellow 
Faculty Scholarship Award

Nominating colleagues wrote of Reed: “Cathy continues to publish cutting-edge research” and “she (is) very productive, while still remaining a very active citizen at the College, and a conscientious teacher. … We are impressed with her very, very active lab and multiple research grants, leading to a very large number of publications.”

Andrew Busch, Crown Professor of Government and George R. Roberts Fellow
Roy P. Crocker Award for Service

“Andy has been on the faculty at CMC since 2004, and was the Director of the Rose Institute for State and Local Government for 10 years. He has chaired the Faculty Administration Committee, and also served on the Board of Trustees Academic Affairs Committee, the 7Cs Committee on Religious Affairs and the faculty steering committee for the Presidential Initiative on Anti-Racism and the Black Experience in America,” Antecol said.

Derik Smith, Associate Professor of Literature and Affiliate Faculty in Africana Studies
Dean’s Distinguished Service Award

As Antecol presented the Dean’s Distinguished Service Award to Smith, she said, “In recent years, Derik has been heavily invested in the Consortium’s Justice Education Initiative, which partners with local carceral institutions to facilitate ‘Inside Out’ courses with students from the Claremont Colleges, joined by fellow students who are incarcerated. Derik is a champion of community building, both here on our campus and across the Claremont Colleges.”

In addition, Antecol recognized faculty who had achieved milestone anniversaries of service at the College:

25 years

Gary Gilbert, Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Jewish Studies Sequence
Gilbert’s research and teaching engages with various areas of Jewish Studies, but particularly Jewish communities in the Greek and Roman periods. Gilbert is the author of numerous articles on Jews and Jewish communities in the Roman world, and teaches a wide array of courses on topics including ancient Jewish experience, and Jewish art and identity.

Mary Hatcher-Skeers, Professor of Chemistry in the W.M. Keck Science Department
Hatcher-Skeers’ research is in biophysical chemistry and she also studies belonging and community building in STEM classrooms. This fall, she assumes the role of Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty at Scripps.

Eric Helland, William Podlich Professor of Economics and George R. Roberts Fellow
Helland is the co-director of the CMC Policy Lab and a senior economist at RAND’s Institute for Civil Justice. He is the author of more than 50 books and articles on law and economics. Currently, he is a Fellow of the Society for Empirical Legal Studies.

Adam S. Landsberg, Professor of Physics in the W.M. Keck Science Department
Landsberg’s research centers on computational and mathematical modeling of complex systems, and he has published broadly across a range of scientific fields and phenomena, including fluid dynamics, game theory, and astrophysical systems.

Shana Levin, Crown Professor of Psychology and George R. Roberts Fellow
Levin’s current research examines cross-cultural intergroup conflict. She has published more than 50 journal articles and book chapters, and one co-authored, and one co-edited book. She teaches courses including Psychological Statistics, Social Psychology, and a Seminar in Prejudice and Intergroup Relations. She served as CMC’s Associate Dean of the Faculty for Research (March 2021-June 2022 and July 2016-August 2020); Co-Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty (September 2020-February 2021); and Chair of the Psychological Science Department (2011-2013).

35 Years

Robert Faggen, Barton Evans H. Andrea Neves Professor of Literature
Faggen’s expertise includes American culture, American poetry, Eastern European literature, the history of science, and literary criticism. He is currently working to complete a biography of American novelist, Ken Kesey, and serves as an Academic Coordinator for the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program. He formerly served as the Director of the Gould Center.

40 Years

Charles Kesler, Dengler-Dykema Distinguished Professor of Government
With expertise in the areas of American Constitutionalism and politics, the conservative movement in America, and Greek and Roman political thought, Kesler is a frequent contributor to the opinion pages of The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. He served as Director of the Henry Salvatori Center for the Study of Individual Freedom in the Modern World from 1989-2008.

45 Years

James H. Nichols, Jr., Professor of Government and Dr. Jules L. Whitehill Professor Humanism and Ethics
Nichols’ primary area of expertise is political philosophy, publishing numerous articles and books, including Alexandre Kojève: Wisdom at the End of History, his study of the French philosopher. This year, Nichols announced he is retiring from the College (see sidebar).

Anne Bergman


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