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K-State Today

June 28, 2022

English department honors faculty with awards

Submitted by Karin Westman

The Department of English in the College of Arts and Sciences recognizes three faculty members with awards.

Tom Sarmiento, associate professor of English, has received the department's annual Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Sarmiento teaches courses in Asian American literature, queer studies, film and cultural studies to a range of students, from first-year introductory courses for non-majors to graduate seminars for Master of Arts students. As part of Sarmiento's teaching philosophy: "Ultimately, I want students to see themselves as lifelong learners who will continue to grow after leaving our classroom."

Sarmiento uses a variety of teaching strategies to engage students in reading, reflection and discussion so they can arrive at their own insights. As graduate student Hunter Scott observes, "Dr. Sarmiento has improved my ability to think critically and generatively about the ways in which culture shapes and reshapes the world in complex, unequal and intersecting ways."

Sarmiento's success with teaching extends beyond undergraduate and graduate courses to include undergraduate research mentorship, graduate advising, and the department's practicum for graduate teaching assistants. In all teaching spaces, according to Sarmiento, and "as a queer person of color and first-generation college student, I acknowledge the power of receiving mentorship from people with similar backgrounds and thus have actively reached out to underrepresented and culturally diverse students to ensure they know they matter and that they have an advocate within an institution not always designed with their realities in mind." Student comments on evaluations and peer observations of Sarmiento's teaching document their award-winning success with students.

Maia Carlson, instructor of professional and technical writing, has received the department's annual Excellence Award for Term Instructors.

A member of the department's instructional team first as a graduate teaching assistant from 2016-2018 and since 2018 as a term instructor, Carlson brings creativity, flexibility, and compassion to her work as a teacher and a department citizen. As she explains in her statement of teaching philosophy, "I try to teach in ways that can give all of my students equal chances for success — while also giving them skills to both face and understand the challenges that they’re going to face in real-world writing."

Carlson's highly successful teaching reaches a broad range of students from across the university through courses like Written Communication for Engineers, Written Communication for the Workplace and Written Communication for the Sciences. She has been a leader within the department's teaching community for these courses, especially during the pivot online in response to the global pandemic. Carlson also serves as an informal mentor to new and continuing graduate teaching assistants and term instructor colleagues. Acclaim from Carlson's faculty colleagues and students testifies to her award-winning teaching practices.

Lisa Tatonetti, professor of English, has received the Donnelly Faculty Award in English for 2022-2024.

The award, created by donors Michelle Munson and Serban Simu, Berkeley, California, honors English professor emeritus Michael Donnelly and the impact he had on numerous students. Munson graduated from K-State in 1996 with degrees in physics and electrical engineering. An English class taught by Donnelly greatly influenced her, leading to this gift.

The Donnelly award is given to an outstanding faculty member in the Department of English in recognition of their contributions to teaching, research/creative activity and service. Each recipient holds the award for two years. A new recipient is named each year, allowing the award to be held by two faculty members at a time. An interdisciplinary committee of faculty and alumni, including Donnelly himself, select each year's recipient.

Tatonetti joins seven previous winners of the Donnelly Award: Greg Eiselein, 2015-2017; Don Hedrick, 2016-2018; Elizabeth Dodd, 2017-2019; Michele Janette, 2018-2020; Phillip Marzluf, 2019-2021; Anne Phillips, 2020-2022; and Anne Longmuir, 2021-2023.

In her letter of application for the award, Tatonetti explains how the Donnelly award's "emphasis on every aspect of our involvement at the university and in our community" prompted her to apply: "I believe we, as educators, can foster transformative change. Through an anti-racist pedagogy that encompasses public-facing teaching, research, and service, I put that belief into action."

The 2022-2024 Donnelly Award follows on earlier recognitions for Tatonetti, including the department's Student Association of Graduates of English, or SAGE, Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2021, the department's award for Excellence in Teaching in 2021, and the College of Arts and Sciences William L. Stamey Award for Teaching in 2009 and its Ron Gaches Lifetime Teaching Award in 2021, among other honors.

In addition to her excellence in teaching and in her service to the university and the community, Tatonetti has published two books, one co-edited book, and authored over 20 peer reviewed articles or chapters on queer Indigenous literatures. Tatonetti's book "The Queerness of Native American Literature" (University of Minnesota Press, 2014) received the 2015 Thomas J. Lyons Book Award in Western American Literary and Cultural Studies, and it was a finalist for the 27th annual Lambda Literary Awards.

"My underlying goals are to build a strong and open classroom community, to scaffold both content and critical thinking/writing skills between and among classes, and to create a knowledge base of diverse literature, literary movements, and theories for my students to share with friends, family and their own future classes," Tatonetti said.

For more information about the English department in the College of Arts and Sciences, visit the department’s website, social media feeds on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and the department's blog.