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Release: Immediate

UI College of Liberal Arts announces inaugural class of Dean's Scholars

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Four associate professors in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts have been recognized as Dean's Scholars, a new award that honors mid-career faculty members who excel in both teaching and scholarship or creative work. The inaugural class of Dean's Scholars, 1998-2000 includes: Luis Gonzalez, geology; Vicki Hesli, political science; Kevin Kregel, exercise science; and Teresa Mangum, English.

Dean's Scholars receive a $5,000 discretionary fund for each of two years, which they may use for "any appropriate professional reason," including equipment, travel, supplies, or other support for teaching and research initiatives.

Dean's Scholars are selected by a committee after reviewing application materials submitted by interested tenured associate professors. The committee forwards recommendations to Linda Maxson, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, for final approval.

Dean's Scholar awards are new this academic year and represent the first program funded by the UI Alumni Association's endowment of the Dean's Chair in the College of Liberal Arts. In a new arrangement for the UI, this endowment rests with the dean's position rather than with a specific person hired to fill the chair, as is traditionally the case with endowed chairs within university departments. The endowment, managed by the University of Iowa Foundation, provides funds for the dean to use for special projects within the college.

"This program is exactly what we envisioned when we received such a generous gift from the Alumni Association," Maxson said. "This inaugural class of Dean's Scholars represents some of the best teachers and scholars in the college, and I'm pleased to be able to present this award to support their professional growth. I'm grateful to the Alumni Association for making these awards possible with its endowment of the Dean's Chair."

Gonzalez said the award would help him continue his research into ancient climatic phenomena. His current project involves the reconstruction of the history of the Southeast Asian Monsoon during the last 10,000 years, in particular the record preserved in caves in the Himalayan foothills in Nepal. In addition, he hopes to begin paleoclimatic studies in the Caribbean with particular emphasis in linking the Cuban paleoclimate record with that of Florida. Gonzalez also plans to begin a collaborative research project with faculty members from environmental engineering.

Hesli said she would use the award to help to defray the cost of studying voting behavior in Russia and Ukraine. She is evaluating how voters make their decisions in post-communist countries and will conduct research during the next two years to test theories about how and why the citizens of Russia and Ukraine vote the way they do. "Russia and Ukraine provide particularly fruitful cases for analysis because the electoral rules keep changing," Hesli said.

Kregel said he would use his award to supply additional resources in his laboratory for undergraduates conducting Honors Research Projects under his direction. He said most of his students perform projects that are separate from his own externally funded research endeavors and that the Dean's Scholar discretionary fund would allow him to provide equipment and supplies to enhance those student projects. "I feel that the experience obtained in a research setting is a fantastic educational opportunity for undergraduate students," Kregel said. "Students in this setting learn to think independently, solve problems, and address alternative ideas and explanations."

Mangum said she plans to use her award to help support two of her current research projects ­ an anthology of essays on aging and culture, and a book titled, "The Victorian Invention of Old Age." Her book research will require travel to Toronto and to London to view primary source material about historical medical and cultural impressions of aging. She added that she expects her research to lead to "a wealth of new course materials," for her undergraduate and graduate level courses. "I cannot take students to distant libraries to dig for riches," she said, but her work in those libraries adds new depth to her classes and sparks students' interest."