Celebrating the Winners of the 2023 WSAS Faculty Excellence Awards

In preparation for Weissman’s upcoming annual Faculty Excellence Awards, we’d like to celebrate our extraordinary 2023 winners.

Min Xiang (Toby) Gao, Technology Assistant

Winner of The Gary Hentzi Award for Excellence in Staff Contribution and Leadership

Gao is recognized throughout Weissman for his extraordinary patience and calm demeanor, especially during the challenging times of the pandemic. As many faculty members struggled with extreme tech anxiety, Toby was a pillar of support, helping them navigate new technologies without ever losing his cool. His ability to answer all questions, regardless of how basic or ontological – even explaining what a desktop is – exemplifies his dedication to his work at Baruch. Toby’s gift for this kind of patience has been a boon to faculty all across the spectrum of tech-savviness.

Amanda Becker, Administrative Coordinator

Winner of The Gary Hentzi Award for Excellence in Staff Contribution and Leadership

Becker, herself a Baruch alum, is the other recipient of this award. Her intimate knowledge of the institution, stemming from her personal journey first as student, then as staff member, has made her an asset of incalculable worth in the Dean’s office. Amanda is universally praised for her kindness, generosity, and patience, qualities that ceaselessly enhance the working environment and community at Weissman. Her willingness to assist and work with everyone on tasks far beyond her basic job description speaks volumes of her sincere commitment and leadership qualities.

Elizabeth Edenberg, Assistant Professor of Philosophy

Winner of The Award for Excellence in Teaching for Full-Time Faculty

Faced with a sudden vacancy in the fall semester, the Philosophy Department was in urgent need of a capable faculty member to teach an upper-level course on ethics, economics, and the business system. Professor Edenberg stepped up to the challenge without hesitation, demonstrating her commitment to the department and its students.

Professor Edenberg’s teaching style is dynamic and engaging. Her ability to teach large roomfuls of students with the kind of attentiveness usually associated with smaller sessions is particularly noteworthy. She incorporates various interactive methods, such as paired activities and group work, making the learning process both effective and surprising for students.

Her contributions have significantly elevated the standards of teaching within the department, pushing her colleagues to strive for more thoughtful and interactive pedagogy.

Rebecca Salois, Adjunct Assistant Professor

Winner of The Award for Excellence in Teaching for Part-Time Faculty

Dr. Salois, a longtime Adjunct Assistant Professor, and now full-time Assistant Professor, has been a distinguished member of the Weissman faculty for years, sharing her expertise across multiple disciplines including Black and Latino Studies, English, Modern Languages and Comparative Literature, and Sociology and Anthropology.

Dr. Salois’s introduction of podcasts as a pedagogical tool exemplifies her forward-thinking approach, allowing students to engage in community based research projects. Her dedication extends beyond the classroom, encapsulated by her role in launching the “Latinx Visions Podcast,” which has gained significant attention for its storytelling, substantial listener numbers, and expanding her scholarship beyond traditional boundaries.

Furthermore, her contributions to the Black and Latino Studies (BLS) department have been invaluable. She played a pivotal role in building the major, designing new courses, and actively participating in the transformative learning in the humanities initiatives spearheaded by the Center for Teaching and Learning. Her efforts far exceeded what is expected from a part-time faculty member, reflecting her extraordinary dedication to the institution and her students.

The excitement surrounding Dr. Salois’s award is amplified by the fact that she has now finally transitioned to a full-time position which started this Fall 2023, a move that has already benefited the BLS program and the broader Baruch community.

Jonathan Gilmore, Professor of Philosophy

Winner of The Award for Excellence in Scholarship or Creative Activity for Full-Time Faculty

Professor Gilmore’s academic pursuit addresses the complex relationship we have with art—how we emotionally engage with the fictional characters and worlds we encounter in movies and novels. His exploration of whether our emotional responses to fiction should be judged by the same standards as those in the real world has led to surprising insights, culminating in his celebrated monograph, Act Imaginings: Feelings for Fictions and Other Creatures of the Mind.

Published by Oxford University Press, this work has been recognized with the American Society of Aesthetics Prize for outstanding monographs for 2020-21. In his book, Professor Gilmore challenges the widely held “continuity thesis” and presents his theory of “normative discontinuity,” proposing that our emotional reactions to fictional narratives deserve their own set of evaluative norms.

With a prior publication by Cornell University Press, over two dozen articles in some of the field’s most selective journals, and his recent appointment as Co-editor of the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism—one of the most prestigious journals in aesthetics—he has undeniably left his mark on academic discourse.

David Jones, Professor of Political Science

Winner of The Award for Excellence in Institutional Leadership or Service for Full-Time Faculty

Professor Jones, who served as chair of the Political Science Department for two terms set the bar high with his organization and leadership. His tenure was marked by his tireless advocacy for faculty members and the department as a whole, demonstrating an exceptional command over the department’s workings, as well as its place in the broader dynamics of the school and college.

Known among his peers as a champion for the Weissman School, Professor Jones’s commitment extended to the student body, especially during the challenging times of the pandemic. In his last semester before a scheduled fellowship leave, he went above and beyond to maintain a sense of connection within the department. His leadership was instrumental during this period, as he led a faculty and student Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) focused research project that critically analyzed course syllabi to better understand the messages being communicated to students.

This project was not only crucial for department morale but also became a cornerstone for its sense of purpose during a tumultuous time, predating the critical events of May 2020, and showcasing his longstanding commitment to inclusivity and understanding.

Harold Ramdass, Lecturer of English

Winner of The Award for Excellence in Student or Peer Mentorship for Full-Time Faculty

Joining the full-time faculty during the pandemic, Harold Ramdass has been an integral part of the Baruch community for many years as a part-time faculty member. His most notable accomplishment, the creation of an extensive mentoring program for adjunct faculty within the department, has made a significant impact on its feeling of community.

Understanding the importance of supporting the substantial contingent of adjunct faculty, Ramdass saw the need to help these underpaid and overworked educators secure full-time and more stable positions. He initiated this mentoring program in Spring 2022, which has since become a resounding success, contributing to the professional growth and development of his colleagues.

Together with his peers, Ramdass assembled a comprehensive database and guide for applying to academic positions, which includes examples of documents and detailed guidelines about the job application process. His innovative pod-based mentoring structure divides adjunct faculty into smaller groups for bi-weekly and monthly job market training sessions. This initiative has already borne fruit, with two of the twelve members securing full-time positions and at least one becoming a finalist for multiple job openings, attesting to the program’s effectiveness.

Ramdass’s dedication to mentoring his colleagues goes far beyond traditional expectations, embodying the spirit of collaboration and support that is central to the mission of the College itself.

Gary Hentzi Takes On the Mysteries of the Beat Generation in Literature and Film

Postwar America is often remembered as a time of domestic peace, prosperity, and repopulation following the horrors of the Second World War, a period of conformity and social conservatism. But the late 1940s and ‘50s also saw the beginnings of the counterculture – the Beat Generation and its contemporaries who in different ways pushed back against the mainstream with an eruption of art, music, and poetry, eventually spreading their style and message around the world. Although their work varied greatly, they had in common a determination to shun social conformity in favor of the power and significance of individual thought and feeling, often expressed through a stream of unedited lived experience without academic or societal constraints.

“American culture really does have many of the characteristics attributed to it by its critics. It’s about ideological manipulation. It’s about selling things. It’s about distraction – giving people conventional genre narratives that don’t take them out of their habitual realms of thought and feeling. But it’s not quite the closed enterprise that it’s sometimes made out to be. The counterculture demonstrated that culture is more of a battleground.”

The 1950s first brought this battleground into sharp focus, and many of its conflicts resonate today. Professor of English Gary Hentzi explores this resonance in his latest book, On the Avenue of the Mystery: The Postwar Counterculture in Novels and Film (Routledge, 2023).

“There’s a general acknowledgement that we’re living in the wake of the global counterculture, but it’s hardly something that’s been laid to rest and is more than just an academic concern. That’s one big issue. Another is how new narrative forms have been made possible by technology. Film and television have eclipsed literature as the dominant forms of storytelling in modern culture. This is such a big development that it’s often compartmentalized or just ignored.”

The co-editor of The Columbia Dictionary of Modern Literary and Cultural Criticism, Hentzi brings his expertise to bear on 20th century literature, social criticism, and film, offering a fresh perspective on the period. His book is a study of eight major novels of the postwar era (1945-65) and the films they inspired in the following five decades. It’s a vibrant mix of cultural history and critique, that explores how the interpretation of the counterculture when the novels were written has transformed over the intervening years.

Hentzi’s readings are informed by his keen explorations of the movement’s major intellectual and aesthetic influences, which are viewed through the prism of mystery: “a sense of the unknown, an intimation of something hidden and as-yet unnoticed, a feeling that there may be more to the world than meets the eye.” It’s a theme that slowly, surprisingly – and fittingly – revealed itself to him as he worked.

“I didn’t really know what book I was going to write. But as I thought about it, I realized how pervasive the idea of mystery is. Suddenly it began turning up everywhere. It’s a feature of the period that is easily caricatured nowadays – people sitting around getting stoned and having visions – something that’s been outgrown and looks a little silly. But that’s a caricature of the idea that obscures the real thing. It has to do with the complexities of human relationships, with the way we experience our own lives and each other. And with technology too.”

This isn’t just a history. Hentzi highlights a specific period of cultural transformation that is, in many respects, still with us. The ways that mainstream culture can be countered have indeed changed, but the countercultural impulse isn’t something that simply disappears.

“There’s a whole set of themes dating from the period of the counterculture that are still with us, that are still ripe for use. Many areas were violently opened up and have since been assimilated. But my feeling is there’s always room for a capable artist to do something special.”

This is a book for cultural historians, literary critics, and artists alike, and perhaps a source of inspiration to those who – like the Beat generation and their fellow travelers – have grown weary of the artistic and social status quo. Content-creators, activists, and intellectuals take heed: if Hentzi’s research is to be believed, there’s still plenty of mystery and plenty more to be done.

Buy On the Avenue of the Mystery: The Postwar Counterculture in Novels and Film here.