Fall 2019 Issue

2019 Faculty Fellowships

Meet this year's Faculty Fellowship Awardees


By Claire De Lisle
Photography By Alfred Herczeg

Fall 2019 Issue

Each year, the Alumni Association honors five professors in the early stages of their careers who exemplify teaching excellence at William & Mary.

The 2019 Faculty Fellowship recipients prepare students to thrive in a complex world that is rapidly evolving around them. They involve students at all levels in cutting-edge research with real-world applications; they form partnerships with communities and industry; they mentor and guide tomorrow’s leaders; and they are committed every day to providing a high-caliber, high-engagement educational experience.

Jozef J. Dudek

Associate Professor of Physics

Picture an atom, with protons and neutrons making up its center. They are 100,000 times smaller than the atom itself — a million billionth of a meter wide (10-15)! Now zoom in even closer. Can you see the quarks and gluons that make up the protons and neutrons?

That’s the scale at which Professor Jozef “Jo” Dudek works. He studies quantum chromodynamics — the interactions between quarks and gluons, some of the smallest components of the universe. The interactions between these particles are hard to find and measure experimentally, but researchers use mathematical models to predict them. After getting his D.Phil. at Oxford, Dudek took a post-doc position at Jefferson Lab in Newport News, Virginia, where he became interested in a computational technique to study quarks and gluons called Lattice QCD. At William & Mary, he uses Lattice QCD in his teaching and research.

“The training my grad students get in high-performance computers allows them to apply their analytical skills to other fields, like technology, data science, finance, biological imaging and healthcare,” says Dudek.

One of his favorite classes to teach is Quantum Field Theory, a graduate-level course that combines special relativity, electromagnetism and quantum mechanics — the big concepts in physics — into one overarching theory.

“It’s really satisfying to see how everything fits together,” he says. “Quantum Field Theory — the work of many people over many years — is one of the greatest intellectual achievements of humanity.”

Dudek loves how enthusiastic and high-achieving his students are, crowding into his office each week for office hours and motivated to master even dry material.

“Our intention as professors is to teach a way of thinking, a rational and analytical framework,” he says. “I can be quite inventive at coming up with questions students have never seen before, because it’s all about learning techniques, not simply memorizing. As useful as lectures are, the real learning happens when you sit down and try to solve real problems.”

"It’s remarkable that by doing the right experiments, using the right kind of thinking, we understand how the universe works at a fundamental level."

John W. Lopresti

Associate Professor of Economics

“It’s a great and a frustrating time to be an economist,” says Professor John Lopresti. “There’s so much going on in the news, and interest in the field is at an all-time high.”

This is especially true of Lopresti’s area of research, which is international trade policy. He studies the effect of international trade on labor markets — what does global competition mean for the people who live and work in certain communities? How has trade policy affected where people live and the level of education they attain?

“Young people in particular move away from or avoid places that were exposed to international competition,” he says. “I come from the Midwest originally so it’s something I can relate to, seeing people going off to college but not coming back to where they were born.”

As an undergraduate at Hanover College in Indiana, Lopresti was a math major at first but fell in love with economics because of its broad applicability to a wide variety of fields. After earning his Ph.D. at Purdue University, he moved to Williamsburg to join the William & Mary faculty. His wife Katie Lopresti teaches economics at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business.

John Lopresti particularly enjoys teaching his Trade Theory course, which connects classical economic models to real-world data to explain why and how the global economy works the way it does. He integrates psychology and behavioral science into his teaching and research, showing how humans — and markets — don’t always behave rationally.

“We don’t always have the answers,” he says. “I love coming up with interesting questions at the start of a research process and figuring out how to answer them.”

He wants students with a wide range of interests to see that economics not only has wide global implications, it matters directly in their lives as well.

“Ultimately, economics is about human behavior: why people make the choices they do, and how the constraints they face shape outcomes for people, societies and the world.”

“Economics helps us answer the big questions of the world.”

Joanna Schug

Associate Professor of Psychological Sciences

Can you choose who to be friends with? If so, how do you decide who will be a good friend?

The answers to these questions vary widely if you are farming rice in China, herding cattle in Mexico or attending middle school in the U.S. Your culture, and how easy it is for you to move socially and geographically within it, greatly affects the friendships you can make.

Professor Joanna Schug’s recent groundbreaking research, funded by the National Science Foundation, looks at this “relational mobility” and how it develops in a culture over time.

“In most societies around the world, you’re born into a social network and you don’t have a lot of choice in your personal relationships. You have to think about your reputation and be vigilant about your interpersonal behaviors, because your neighbors all help enforce norms,” she says. “But if you’re a more mobile culture, you have more choice in who you interact with and who you avoid, and it becomes more about deciding which new people can be trusted.”

Schug uses data to measure and compare aspects of cultures in a scientific way. Her research and teaching uses a combination of psychology, sociology, anthropology, behavioral genetics, behavioral ecology and other social sciences — a truly interdisciplinary approach.

She’s also no stranger to moving between cultures. After getting her undergraduate degree in California, she lived in Japan for a decade, where she received her master’s and Ph.D. from Hokkaido University. When she’s able, she takes a few W&M students to Japan during the summer to assist her with research there.

In her Cross-Cultural Psychology and Advanced Research Methods courses, Schug encourages students to think scientifically and develop the skills to critically evaluate the world around them.

“I want them to be able to understand how to critically evaluate research findings that they come across, understanding the statistics and the methods that researchers use,” she says. “No matter what they end up doing, this will help them throughout their lives.”

"We can sometimes take our culture for granted, but it has a big impact on our health, our psychology and the ways we interact with the world."

Fabrício P. Prado

Associate Professor of History

Professor Fabrício Prado wants you to know that globalization is not new.

“Most people think of globalization as just a modern phenomenon, but it actually started 500 years ago when Magellan circumnavigated the world in 1522,” he says.

His latest book, tentatively titled “Inter-American Connections: Capitalism, Slavery, and the Making of the United States and Independent South America,” will follow the political and commercial networks linking the newly independent United States with South America, specifically Buenos Aires and Rio De Janeiro.

Prado became interested in these global connections growing up in southernmost Brazil, in an area that was hotly contested between Portugal and Spain during the colonial era.

A native Portuguese speaker, he was fascinated by the people around him from Spanish-speaking cultures and how these two cultures mixed in this “borderland.” After receiving his master’s degree in Argentinian history, Prado came to the United States for his Ph.D.

At William & Mary, Prado has found a vibrant intellectual community of faculty and students.

“I have the best colleagues I can dream of — there’s a strong culture of open doors, of talking about intellectual things over coffee,” he says. “My students are bright and they keep pushing me to learn more, dig a little bit deeper. They ask questions that make me see the world from a different perspective.”

Prado especially enjoys teaching his COLL 300 course on colonial Latin America, in which he can address students’ misconceptions about Latin America, Africa and the early Atlantic trade.

He prepares his students for today’s global world by bringing a little bit of the world into his classroom, through music, poetry and video.

“I want students to see that people are not just economic agents of developed or undeveloped countries, poor or rich societies. They are not just revolutionaries or bandits or smugglers,” he says. “People feel, people love, people die, people suffer, as we do here. I offer a window for students to empathize with their humanity.”

“The making of America is tied to trade to South America, China, India — we were founded on global connections.”

Meredith W. Kier

Associate Professor of Science Education

Did you ever sit in a science class and not really see the connection between your life and what you were learning?

At William & Mary’s School of Education, Professor Meredith Kier trains and supports teachers in the use of more equitable teaching practices — ensuring students from all backgrounds can connect science concepts to their lives.

“As a former teacher, I have found that students, especially those in underserved communities, learn best and feel included in science when they can see real-world applications of content that connect to their values and experiences outside of school,” Keir says.

Through her classes and research, she prepares students to teach science in high-needs schools, which tend to have few resources, high teacher turnover, and a large proportion of students receiving free and reduced lunch.

“While a Ph.D. student at North Carolina State University, I worked with students in underserved rural communities and I saw the injustices those students faced,” she says. “It led me to want to address these inequalities with good science teaching practices, which help students imagine careers in STEM and connect them with mentors.”

One focus is teaching science through engineering design processes — showing students how to think like an engineer.

“Engineering is one way for students to have a voice in the classroom and apply learning to explaining problems and designing solutions that affect their own lives and communities,” Kier says.

Her work has been supported through a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant in collaboration with Howard University. Through her recent NSF EAGER award, Kier will work with Newport News, Virginia, public middle school teachers and engineering undergraduates in local chapters of the National Society of Black Engineers.

“I’ve grown as an educator here, working with preservice teachers and undergraduates who are passionate about learning and equity,” she says. “I’m amazed every day by how brilliant and how committed to social justice our students are. It’s my joy as a teacher to see them evolve from content experts to working directly with the community.”

“As science teachers, we can help address injustices faced by students in marginalized communities.”