published August 22, 2013

Monica Devanas Receives 2013 William E. Bennett Award

The 2013 William E. Bennett Awards for Extraordinary Contributions to Citizen Science were formally presented on August 2 at the SENCER Summer Institute. Readers of eNews already know that the 2013 team recipient is the University of North Carolina Asheville, recognizing their work in the Integrative Liberal Studies Topical Cluster, "Food for Thought."

The winner of the 2013 William E. Bennett individual award came as a surprise to no one more at SSI 2013 than its recipient, Dr. Monica Devanas.

Monica is director of faculty development and assessment programs at the Center for Teaching Advancement and Assessment Research at Rutgers University. With a PhD in microbiology, she has been a leader in the SENCER community since the initiative's beginnings. Her course (one of the first four SENCER Models), Biomedical Issues of HIV/AIDS, has enrolled more than 7,000 undergraduates.

David Burns, who worked with Monica to establish the AIDS course at Rutgers in the Spring of 1992, believes that "Monica's course was probably the single most intensive and influential 'intervention' on HIV in a college course at the time. Not only was it a powerful vehicle for learning biology—it produced learning that 'stuck'—but her course focused attention on HIV at a time when an AIDS diagnosis was a 'death sentence'." Burns notes, "the success of Monica's course is what led me to seek support from the Centers for Disease Control to develop the Program for Health and Higher Education at AAC&U. Through that program, I met such wonderful colleagues as Karen Oates, who had pioneered an HIV course at George Mason, and, as they say, the rest is history."

In presenting the award to Monica, Karen Oates, SENCER co-founder and senior advisor, expressed the deep gratitude of all of the members of the SENCER and National Center leadership team and countless faculty members in the Mid-Atlantic region and around the nation who have benefitted from Monica's steadfast leadership, personal kindness, boundless ingenuity, and just plain hard work. Karen used a metaphor drawn from evolutionary science to describe the manifold small ways (adaptations) and occasional big leaps (mutations) in our thinking about the relationship of STEM education and civic engagement that Monica has enacted and inspired since she created her HIV/AIDS course.

In addition to her national leadership on teaching and learning and the uses of portfolios to represent learning, Monica is the co-director of the Mid-Atlantic SENCER Center for Innovation with Terry McGuire and one of the co-PIs on the most recent TUES III award from the National Science Foundation. Going forward, Monica's efforts will focus on intensifying faculty development follow-up support in the SENCER program.

In addition to her national leadership on teaching and learning and the uses of portfolios to represent learning, Monica is the co-director of the Mid-Atlantic SENCER Center for Innovation with Terry McGuire and one of the co-PIs on the most recent TUES III award from the National Science Foundation. Going forward, Monica's efforts will focus on intensifying faculty development follow-up support in the SENCER program.

Monica was overcome with surprise and gratitude after Karen made the announcement and presented her with the silver tray that Bill Bennett calls the "Webbie." When asked to comment on the award several days after the announcement, Monica expressed her appreciation and said, "We in the SENCER community all work with similar dedication to our mutually held goals, so I am truly humbled to be honored by my colleagues. I have been privileged to know Bill personally and to work with him. This award takes on an added very special meaning because of my great fondness and admiration for Bill."

During the same session at the Summer Institute, Karen presented the team award to the University of North Carolina at Asheville. Keith Krumpe, dean of natural sciences, accepted the award on behalf of the team, which includes Ellen Bailey (foreign languages), David Clarke (biology), Amy Lanou (health and wellness), Leah Matthews (economics), Karin Peterson (sociology), Jason Wingert (health and wellness), and Sally Wasileski (chemistry). He expressed his admiration for his colleagues for their community-based work and leadership, but also for the very modeling of what a dynamic learning organization can be—with good food and fellowship as well.