“We are extremely proud of the outstanding teaching and mentorship provided by our faculty,” said John Dudley, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. “Their teaching, research, and service exemplifies the values a liberal arts education.”

Richard and Sharon Cutler Awards in Liberal Arts

Richard and Sharon Cutler of Sioux Falls established these awards with a generous contribution in 2003 to reward outstanding College of Arts & Sciences faculty and promote liberal arts education at USD. The Cutler Awards are given annually to one faculty member in each of the three divisions who advances liberal arts education through both teaching and research. The recipients of the Cutler Awards include the following.

  • Grigoriy Sereda, Ph.D., received the Cutler Award in the science and mathematics division. A professor of chemistry, Sereda regularly teaches courses in organic chemistry and takes pride in maintaining flexibility and accessibility in his courses, which have prepared hundreds of students entering medical and health care professions. According to Sereda, “The critical piece of liberal education is placing the course content in the context of the large picture of life.” A recipient of the President's Award for Research Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Sereda has received substantial funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institute for Heath for his work on solving real-world problems, such as fighting cancer, and these projects have helped support dozens of undergraduate and graduate students who have worked in his research group, co-authored published articles and presented their own work at professional conferences.
  • Julia Hellwege, Ph.D., received the Cutler Award in the social sciences division. A past winner of the Belbas-Larson Award for Excellence in Teaching, Hellwege is an associate professor of political science and director of the Government Research Bureau. She regularly teaches the Introduction to Political Science course, required for all incoming majors, as well as American Government, Women & Politics and Campaigns & Democracy, among many others. Her research focuses on institutional behavior and representation, especially gender, race and ethnicity, and she has demonstrated outstanding mentorship of students in their own independent research as well as through projects administered by the Government Research Bureau. “As a professor of political science, I have a particular concern for ensuring that students not only perform well in the course, but that they become informed citizens,” said Hellwege. “I expect my students to process information and think about it critically in their civic lives.”
  • Lisa Ann Robertson, Ph.D., received the Cutler Award in the humanities division. A previous recipient of the Belbas-Larson Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Monsignor James M. Doyle Humanities Teaching Award, Robertson is the coordinator of English graduate programs and an associate professor of English with expertise in 18th- and 19-century British literature and culture. Among the courses she regularly teaches are introductory surveys of British literature, courses in English 18th-century and romantic literature, and graduate seminars in 18th- and 19-century studies. Robertson’s research explores scientific, literary, philosophical and religious texts written in Great Britain between the 1730s and 1830s, employing contemporary ideas from cognitive science to examine how writers describe and represent the human mind. According to Robertson, “My work uncovers the fundamental value of the liberal arts and advocates seeking out connections among events, objects, and people, rather than considering them as isolated phenomena.”

Monsignor James M. Doyle Humanities Teaching Award

Zoli Filotas, Ph.D., was awarded the Monsignor James M. Doyle Humanities Teaching Award. This award is made possible thanks to a gift from Monsignor James Michael Doyle, former chair of religious studies at USD and a prominent theologian inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame. Monsignor Doyle endowed a prize to reward an outstanding teacher and mentor in the College of Arts & Sciences.

Filotas is an associate professor of philosophy at USD. He currently serves as program coordinator for the philosophy major and regularly teaches introductory courses in philosophy and logic, as well as advanced courses in ancient philosophy, the philosophy of law, as well as courses for the University Honors Program. He has also served on several Honors and graduate thesis committees. In his research, Filotas examines slavery, marriage and other hierarchical relationships in Greek philosophy, and his publications include the book Aristotle and The Ethics of Difference, Equality, and Friendship: The Pluralism of Rule (Bloomsbury, 2021). True to the legacy of Monsignor Doyle, he consistently invites students to explore new ideas and to think independently about challenging topics.

Blair and Linda Tremere Public Service Award

BreAnne Danzi, Ph.D., was awarded the Blair and Linda Tremere Public Service Award. This award is given annually to a single faculty member in the College of Arts & Sciences who has demonstrated outstanding public service to the local community or to the state of South Dakota in the previous calendar year.

Danzi is an assistant professor of psychology, with a research agenda that includes understanding children’s responses to traumatic stress, improving the assessment of PTSD in children, and identifying biopsychosocial factors that contribute to risk and resilience trajectories following trauma exposure. Danzi recently received an American Psychological Foundation award for her research and service efforts. Her service is focused on improving the mental health of children and families in Vermillion and across South Dakota. As part of this effort, she has worked to improve access to services by facilitating trainings for school staff and community members in order to grow the trauma-informed workforce in the community and increase the number of professionals able to provide evidenced-based care to children affected by trauma. She has also been invited to provide training at the Community Response to Child Abuse Conference in Sioux Falls, which is attended by over 500 multidisciplinary professionals from across South Dakota.

Johnson Family Outstanding Instructor Award

Jennifer Fierro was awarded the Johnson Family Outstanding Instructor Award, which is made possible through an annual gift of the Johnson family. Mary Elizabeth Johnson is a USD graduate in mass communication who served as Chaplain at the Mayo Clinic for over three decades, working closely with women experiencing health issues and loss. The Johnson Family Outstanding Instructor Award is given each year to a single faculty member holding the rank of instructor who demonstrates outstanding classroom teaching and mentoring in the previous calendar year.

Fierro is an instructor of environment teaches She regularly teaches introductory courses on sustainability and earth science, and focuses on providing an engaging and exciting experience for students to learn more about science. “As an instructor, I see myself as a guide and partner as they step into life as young people in this world,” said Fierro. “I focus on respect and empathy, along with humor, to make myself approachable and the material seem human.” She also recently began serving as coordinator for the Sustainability Living Learning Community (LLC) and has led a study abroad program in Malta with a focus on geology, coastal and marine sustainability.

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