Holy Cross Professors Celebrated for Outstanding Scholarship and Student Advising

Juan Ramos and Andrew Hwang received Marfuggi Awards, and Susan Elizabeth Sweeney the Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award

At the close of the academic year, three faculty members were celebrated for their excellence in scholarship and academic advising.

Before the faculty of the College of the Holy Cross who were gathered for her spring address, Margaret Freije, provost and dean of the College, presented Mary Louise Marfuggi Faculty Awards to Juan Ramos, associate professor of Spanish, and Andrew Hwang, associate professor of mathematics, as well as the Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award to Susan Elizabeth Sweeney, the Monsignor Edward G. Murray Professor of Arts and Humanities and professor of English.

Mary Louise Marfuggi Faculty Award for Outstanding Scholarship

Juan Ramos received the Mary Louise Marfuggi Faculty Award for Outstanding Scholarship, an award that honors a member of the faculty for outstanding achievement in the creation of original scholarly work over the past 18 months.

Ramos was celebrated for his scholarly accomplishments, with particular emphasis on his sole-authored book, "Sensing Decolonial Aesthetics in Latin American Arts" (University Press of Florida, 2018). Ramos' book, described by one reviewer as a "finely tuned interdisciplinary piece of research," explores Latin American popular art of the 1960s, bringing previously undervalued cultural art forms "out of the margins and into the center of serious scholarship," Freije offered during her remarks.

The book specifically focuses on poetry, film and music, theorizing "how aesthetics can be at once decolonized and reactivated for political purposes to communicate directly with readers and audiences in poetic, visual and aural languages that were more direct and relatable to non-elite sectors of the population across Latin America, including the historically disenfranchised, racialized and oppressed," explains Ramos.

Ramos shares that he became interested in exploring the intersection of various arts in order to better understand this pivotal moment in Latin America, ultimately showing how the poetic, cinematic and musical texts he studied have a sustained impact that carries over into the 21st century.

In the short time since its publication, Ramos' book has received much praise, being recognized as "a model for scholarship that establishes new lines of inquiry," according to the press' acquisition editor.

One nominator and fellow scholar, said Freije, describes the book as presenting an "outstanding and original conceptualization of a more complete and accurate way of understanding the heterogeneity of Latin American cultural production" and predicts it "will impact the whole field of Latin American culture analysis."

"It is rare to find a scholar so equally adept at providing richly contextualized readings and at bringing to light cross-disciplinary, cross-national and cross-generational connections,” another nominator shared.

"It is humbling to receive the Marfuggi award for Distinguished Faculty Research at this still somewhat early point in my career, only two years after having received tenure," says Ramos. "In any given year, there are a number of great researchers at the College who receive a nomination for this award. It was all the more unexpected to know that the committee members who evaluated all nominations deemed my recently published book worthy of receiving such a prestigious award and college-wide recognition."

Mary Louise Marfuggi Faculty Award for Academic Advising

Andrew Hwang received the Mary Louise Marfuggi Faculty Award for Academic Advising, an award given to a faculty member who has demonstrated effective academic advisement and mentorship of students that was extraordinary in quality. The recipient is selected based on student nominations.

While presenting the award, Freije shared that student nominators described Hwang as "accommodating and helpful, dedicated to the success of students and willing to spend many hours helping them to explore curricular and career options."

Students made note of Hwang's patience in reviewing multiple options with them while they decided on a major or plans for graduate school, and his enthusiastic interest in their classes and projects.

"One time he asked if he could read one of my papers for another class because he was interested in the topic," a student nominator shared. "It was very encouraging to know that someone genuinely cared about my work."

Freije also praised Hwang's "particular gift for helping students who are struggling." "Many students commented on his ability to help them see a path forward when they confronted obstacles," she said. "A student notes, 'when I had to withdraw from a class, my advisor ensured that I would not feel like a failure,' and another notes, 'his confidence in my future has helped me to have confidence in what is to come.'"

"He has always given the perfect combination of realistic and hopeful advice and I don't know if I would still be at Holy Cross without him as my advisor," said one student nominator. "He has gone above and beyond his required duties."

"The Marfuggi award is an honor," shares Hwang, "but also an affirmation: Many of us hunger for deeper meaning, connection, relevance, and purpose than monetized culture provides; many students respond to a philosophy of life that validates human relationships, vulnerability and the human condition. The simple acts of forming connections, sharing perspectives, and living an examined life are substantive manifestations of the human experience. Consequently, mentoring students is just as important to me, and for the same reasons, as is life itself."

The annual Marfuggi awards are made possible by a generous gift from Richard A. Marfuggi, M.D. ’72, in honor of his mother.

Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award

Susan Elizabeth Sweeney received the Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award, an award presented to a faculty member with an exceptionally distinguished record of scholarly achievement throughout his or her career. The award is not given out every year, but rather when the Committee on Faculty Scholarship (CFS) judges the entire scholarly record of a faculty member to be worthy of the recognition. This is only the second time the College has bestowed the award.

In presenting the award, Freije noted Sweeney's record of scholarly achievement as a poet and as a scholar of detective fiction, feminist narratology, postmodernist literature, and the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Edith Wharton, and Vladimir Nabokov. Sweeney was "nominated by a large number of her departmental colleagues and selected by the CFS for her 'impressive volume of scholarship, breadth of projects tackled and the high praise her scholarship receives from experts in her field,'" Freije explained.

Within the past 18 months, Sweeney has published eight new articles in three different areas of her scholarly interests, one of which won a prestigious award from a learned society, as well as publishing original creative works of her own.

"As her nominators attest, Professor Sweeney's most recent productivity is the latest in a long trajectory of her scholarly and creative accomplishments," said Freije. "Over the course of her career, she has published over fifty essays in a variety of areas, and her edited collections in more than one field are highly influential."

Sweeney's nominators praised her prowess, explaining that often her "scholarship has set a new standard or pioneered an area of study" and noting that "her intellectual leadership is amply documented by invitations to give keynote addresses and to serve on editorial boards." Sweeney has also served as president of both the International Vladimir Nabokov Society and the Poe Studies Association, all the while remaining “deeply committed to the mission of teaching,” Freije added.

"I feel tremendously honored to receive the Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award," says Sweeney. "I’m very lucky to teach at a college where faculty members are encouraged to explore multiple intellectual and creative pursuits! That's why I’ve been able not only to become an expert on the 'metaphysical' detective story — the subject of my Ph.D. dissertation — but also to compose an original screenplay on Poe's final romance, study nineteenth-century ventriloquism and early photography, publish a collection of original poems about hand-me-downs, explore neurological oddities in novels by Nabokov, edit a volume of Wharton's ghost stories, and have my clay sculptures, depicting the experience of reading some of my favorite books, featured in a show at the Cantor Gallery. Three cheers for the liberal arts!"

Photos by Avanell Brock, Tom Rettig and Dan Vaillancourt