The Fintz Award for Teaching Excellence in the Arts and Humanities

The Fintz Award for Teaching Excellence in the Arts and Humanities recognizes outstanding faculty who, in keeping with the goals of integrative studies, seek to engage students with arts and humanities ways of knowing and to assist them in developing critical thinking and effective communication skills. The Fintz Award is possible thanks to an endowment provided by Professor Ken Waltzer, former director of CISAH, to honor his father. The selection of candidates, final recommendations made by the CISAH Advisory Committee, and awards ceremony take place during the spring semester of each year. IAH faculty may receive the Fintz Awards only once every five years.

2018 Award Recipients

Stephan Arch

Professor Steve Arch

The Fintz Awards Committee is pleased to honor Stephan C. Arch, Professor of English, for his outstanding teaching of IAH 207 on the Gothic in Literature and Art in Spring and Fall 2017. As Professor Arch explains in his syllabus, the courses focused on the Gothic as “a mode of writing and seeing that intimates that the rational, logical, ordered world around us is in fact filled with hidden depths, dark secrets, perhaps even terrible, horrible things – monsters, mysteries, lawless desires, death.” The committee was impressed by the course’s strong interdisciplinary emphasis on the Gothic as a “lens” through which the arts and humanities interact with the diversities of the human experience “in different places and at different times to speak to different cultural and social needs.” The awards committee was especially impressed by Professor Arch success at engaging student learning in 400-student lecture-based courses.

The degree to which Professor Arch engaged student interest and learning in a large lecture courses is abundantly evident by the many student comments supporting his nomination for a teaching excellence award. Two comments, one from each semester, exemplify the overall student feedback from both courses:

  • Professor Arch was very knowledgeable about the subject and very interesting to listen to his point of view. I feel he also handled what I would consider “heated” situations like talking about racial, sexual, and gender differences very professionally. With some text being placed in times where there were cultural differences from now, he was able to communicate the train of thought of people at the time. As a student who hasn’t really been interested in reading and critical thinking, Professor Arch helped [me] to change that with the different points of view, knowledge, and excitement while teaching. (Spring 2017)
  • Professor Arch is a fantastic example of a professor that has a statement to make, an agenda if you will. This agenda is quite simple. READ. Enjoy reading, enjoy learning about things that you don’t quite understand but will once you research into the text. He admitted himself his lack of interest (due to a lack of knowledge) in gothic literature but took a chance to learn from it and did so. He inspires students to try to step out of the comfort zone and examine the world differently. (Fall 2017)

Professor Arch is the author of two books: Authorizing the Past: The Rhetoric of History in Seventeenth-Century New England and After Franklin: The Emergence of Autobiography in Post-Revolutionary America, 1780–1830. His scholarly articles have appeared in Early American LiteratureStudies in American FictionThe William and Mary Quarterly, and other prestigious journals. In 2015, he published a critical textual edition of James Fenimore Cooper’s 1838 novel, Homeward Bound (New York: AMS Press). A companion edition of Cooper’s sequel, Home as Found, will be published in 2018. He serves as Associate Lead Editor of The Writings of James Fenimore Cooper.

Arch’s current research interests include gothic literature, scholarly editing, and the literature of sports. He is developing a collection of essays on teaching Cooper’s novels (for MLA) and preparing a classroom edition of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables (for Broadview Press). He served as Chair of the Department of English from 2007-2012, and as associate chair from 1998-2003 and in 2006. He was a Fulbright scholar in the Netherlands in 1996.

Ethan Segal

Professor Ethan Segal

The Fintz Awards Committee is pleased to honor Ethan Segal, Associate Professor of History, for his outstanding teaching of IAH 241G, “Japanese Film and Culture” in Fall 2017. This newly created course examines Japanese culture through a variety of disciplines in the humanities, such as film, theater, music, literature, philosophy, and religion. It allows students to explore contemporary J-pop music, read best-selling Japanese novels, and even write their own versions of traditional Japanese noh plays. Professor Sega’s course is not simply an introduction to the culture of Japan but rather a course that helps students recognize and understand universal human conditions, such as friendship, family relations, environmental issues, and the negative impact of technological development. The awards committee was impressed by the innovative format of his course: with five class hours per week, the course includes a two-hour evening movie screening slot so that students can watch each assigned film in full, in one sitting.

Two student comments explaining why each would nominate Professor Segal for a teaching excellence award exemplify the overall feedback from students in the course:

  • Professor Segal was a professor who you can tell cared about the students, and he cared about the subject matter. He was open and honest with us, and he was flexible if need be for office hours and helping us students.  Again, he organized this class so well, probably the best I’ve had here at State, and that’s saying a lot since I’ve been here for 5 years.  And Lastly he was extremely interested in what he was teaching, which was translated in class. The things and way he taught us were cool and interesting! I actually liked this class.
  • Professor Segal is a dedicated, enthusiastic professor who obviously knows his stuff. He comes in with a good attitude and tries his best to engage students in discussions on the course topic that are both interesting and informative. 10/10 would recommend.

Professor Segal is a scholar of traditional East Asia with a particular focus on Japan.  He earned his M.A. from the University of Washington, his Ph.D. from Stanford University, and was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Tokyo.  In 2008-09, he was Visiting Assistant Professor of Pre-modern Japanese History in Harvard University’s Department of East Asian Languages & Civilizations. Topics of Professor Segal’s research and teaching include economic history, nationalism, women and gender, history and film, contemporary popular culture, and Japanese textbooks. Professor Segal’s first book, Coins, Trade, and the State: Economic Growth in Early Medieval Japan (Harvard University Press), re-examines money, trade, and evolving medieval political and social institutions. His articles also appear in several academic journals and edited volumes.

The Somers Award for Excellence in Teaching

The Somers Award for Excellence in Teaching recognizes graduate teaching assistants who have demonstrated a commitment to excellence, innovation and creativity in undergraduate teaching. Nominees are recommended by faculty and students for their strong ability to promote meaningful student-teacher interaction, as well as in creating a classroom environment that encourages active learning and critical thinking.

Sandy Burnley

Sandy Burnley TA

Sandy Burnley is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English and Animal Studies at Michigan State University. Her dissertation focuses on different forms of nonhuman animal representation and authorship in Victorian literature in an effort to dismantle humanist notions and exceptionalism, and to trace a more ethical and egalitarian transspecies relationship for our proximal futures. Currently, her focus has been probing the silence posited forth by nonhuman companions, the gaze through which humanity becomes arrested and held responsible for its formulations, and the responsibility to which humans owe others who both form and challenge our biopolitical status. Such research intersects closely with disability, postcolonial, gender studies, and new materialism in an effort to question our current ontological assumptions regarding species, individuals, and the environments they inhabit, to challenge our anthropocentric conceptions of self and subjectivity, and to explore the ways in which precarious living defines our sense of agency and world formation. When not researching literature, Ms. Burnely applies her understanding of transspecies communication to canine agility and parkour exercises in order to illustrate the confidence, agency, and intention of others, and can often be found learning from her equine companions on what it means to respond and engage with respect.

Tia Harvey

Tia Harvey TA

Tia Harvey is a percussionist and educator in Michigan. She is pursuing a masters in musicology and a doctoral degree in percussion performance at Michigan State University. As a percussionist, Harvey is building a career as a chamber musician, music educator, and music activist. She is passionate about bringing music to non-traditional venues and commissioning new works as well as instilling an appreciation of music and empowering the next generation through music education.

Harvey is a percussion and music theory instructor at the MSU Community Music School-East Lansing, MSU Community Music School-Detroit, and is an instructor at Accent Pontiac, where she leads the Bucket Band. She holds degrees from Michigan State University (M.A.) and the University of Central Florida (B.M.). Harvey currently resides in Ferndale, Michigan, with her partner, Erik, and their cats, Elliott and Ezra.

Zack Kruse

Zach Kruse TA

Zack Kruse is a Ph.D. candidate in 20th Century American Literature in the Department of English at Michigan State University, and his research interests focus on comic books and their history, production, and long-term narrative development. He has additional research interests in critical theory, cultural studies, indigenous literatures, genre fiction, and popular media. Zack is also the panel coordinator for the Michigan State University Comics Forum, and he has been a long-time contributor to the comics community as a creator, convention organizer, retailer, and pundit. Previously, he served as the managing editor for The Journal of Popular Culture, the leading journal in its field.

Christine Peffer

Christine Peffer TA

Christine Peffer is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English at Michigan State University. She received a Bachelor’s degree in English (2013) with a minor in journalism and a Master’s degree in English (2015), both from Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania. While at Gannon, Christine taught freshman composition and served as the assistant director of the university’s Writing Center, as well as a graduate assistant for the women’s volleyball team. At MSU, she has taught for a range of IAH courses and recently taught in the WRAC Department. Her research interests are broadly distributed in the environmental humanities, and include ecohorror, environmental activist literature, the cultural and scientific fascinations surrounding fungi, and food justice/food sovereignty movements.

 Sarah J. Schmitt

Sarah Schmitt

Sarah J. Schmitt is a master’s student in the Department of English at Michigan State University. She received her undergraduate degree in English from Kalamazoo College in 2017, where she studied abroad at the University of Aberdeen. She is interested in both early modern and Victorian conceptions of morality, with specific attention given to the influence of Miltonic thought. Her work investigates whether a better understanding of past ideologies can lead us to a more empathetic and nuanced view of our own moment’s notion of virtue. Sarah intends to continue pursuing her passion for teaching while obtaining her Ph.D. in English.

Kelli Smith

Kelli Smith TA

Kelli Smith is a Master’s student in Musicology in the College of Music at Michigan State University’s. She is interested in music technology, internet cultures, popular music, and gender and sexuality. Her recently completed M.A. thesis focuses on gendered rhetoric in online music communities, specifically those centered around independent and anti-mainstream popular music. She analyzes comments sections, forums, and social media threads to examine the various ways in which women and minorities are excluded from online dialogues. In her teaching, Kelli believes that all students can develop the skills to critically examine the production and consumption of all types of music, no matter their level of musical training. She will continue to develop her teaching and research skills as she pursues her Ph.D. in Musicology at the University of North Carolina, starting Fall 2019.