aacu-logoAAC&U administers the K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award, which recognizes graduate students who show exemplary promise as future leaders of higher education; who demonstrate a commitment to developing academic and civic responsibility in themselves and others; and whose work reflects a strong emphasis on teaching and learning.

The awards honor the work of K. Patricia Cross, Professor Emerita of Higher Education at the University of California-Berkeley.

christensenRebecca Christensen, Higher Education, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Rebecca studies issues related to equity, inclusion, diversity, and social justice in colleges and universities. Her dissertation is a mixed-methods study focused on the influence of a residential learning community on first-year college students’ social justice conceptualizations, attitudes, and behaviors. She is strongly committed to educating and preparing undergraduate and graduate students to become active citizens and future leaders in our diverse, global society.

connerNeil Conner, Geography, University of Tennessee

Neil studies the intersections between political and cultural geography. His dissertation research explores the politics of national identity, migration, and religion in Dublin, Ireland by examining the growing tensions between native-born Irish citizens and recently arrived immigrants. Interested in geographic education and has conducted research on instructional strategies in introductory-level college courses concerning the dynamics of globalization.

grohsJacob Grohs, Educational Psychology, Virginia Tech

Jacob studies how individuals reason through complex ill-structured problems; he argues that as problems grow in complexity (e.g., wicked problems as described in the problem-solving literature), exceptional technical skills no longer are sufficient for reaching viable solutions: social, economic, political, environmental, and community contexts must also be taken into consideration.

He was Associate Director for Engaged Learning and Scholarship for VT Engage: The Community Learning Collaborative, and lead faculty member for the SERVE Living Learning Community at Virginia Tech.

rentschlerErin Marie Rentschler, English, Duquesne University

Erin’s studies center on 20th   and 21st century American literature and narratives of war, especially novels of the Vietnam War told from the perspective of people of color in the United States.

Her project suggests that these narratives illuminate fissures between individual and collective memories of the war, so posing important questions about what, how, and whom we remember. Her dissertation explores the role of storytelling in making sense of the trauma of war, particularly with respect to those groups of people whose voices have generally been silenced by mainstream Vietnam War representation. By examining the tensions between lived experience and imaginative narratives, she draws attention to the physical, emotional, and psychological suffering that pervades both racial or ethnic conflict and war. It ultimately offer these stories as a point of access through which readers can enter into the pain and suffering of an “other” and develop the capacity for the kind of empathetic understanding that underpins cross-cultural communities of healing. She hopes that her project will contribute both to the critical discussion of fiction representing a particular historical moment and to conversations about teaching controversial and sensitive topics such as war, race, and ethnicity.

In teaching literature, Erin often works with her students to examine the roles that narratives (and their readers) play in memorializing, commemorating, and documenting life in the context of complex historical moments such as war or cultural conflict. She fosters an environment that allows students to reflect on their roles and responsibilities as individual citizens who dialogue with the myriad narratives that they encounter and who have the potential to shape how current events are remembered and how diverse groups perceive and interact with one another.

She is now  program manager for the Center for Teaching Excellence at Duquesne.

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