George Mason University

News at Mason

Celebrating the recipients of the 2018 Presidential Faculty Excellence Medals

May 15, 2018

Established a year ago with the support of generous endowments from university benefactors, the 2018 Presidential Faculty Excellence Medals represent the university’s highest recognition of faculty members who exemplify our ideals of excellence: teaching innovation, research and scholarship of consequence, diversity and inclusion, and social impact in our community and around the world.


The Earle C. Williams Presidential Medal for Excellence in Social Impact 

Stephen S. Fuller, Dwight Schar Faculty Chair and University Professor, Schar School of Policy and Government

As I look back on my 24 years at George Mason University, its most distinguishing value is the enabling environment it has provided me to be an effective teacher and researcher. My dean has never asked me, “What have you done recently?” but rather “How are you doing? Is there anything you need?” This positive learning and working environment has resulted in my being more productive and impactful.

I have focused my research on the Washington, D.C., region’s economy, its performance, and the local conditions that are impacting its outlook. This research has been well received by local business leaders and elected government officials, and as a result of this body of research, Mason has become recognized as the place to go for information about the Washington region’s economy.

By being supportive of my research and creating a positive intellectual environment, not only has Mason advanced its educational mission, it has extended its services to the broader community. Rather than being an introverted institution as many colleges and universities are, Mason is extroverted and has an outstanding record of public service. 

My research has benefited from the university’s support and has contributed to furthering Mason’s positive brand as an important force in the growth and development of Northern Virginia, the National Capital Region, and the Commonwealth of Virginia.


The United Bank Presidential Medal for Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion

Angela Hattery, Professor and Director, Women and Gender Studies Program, College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Among the professional activities of which I am most proud is my service as the director of Women and Gender Studies. Through that leadership role, I have the opportunity to harness my passion for racial and gender justice. When I became the director of Women and Gender Studies in 2013, I stood on the shoulders of many who came before me. Their dedication and passion laid the groundwork for my own. 

I believe that one of the most important elements of racial and gender equality is advancing opportunities for those who are marginalized. As a white woman, I knew that in order for Women and Gender Studies to move the needle on racial diversity, we would need a staff that reflected our diverse student body. 

During my tenure, I’m proud to say that our professional and student staff come from nearly every racial/ethnic, gender identity, sexual identity, and religious practice present on campus. And, as a result, anyone who enters the Women and Gender Studies Center will see someone who “looks like them.”

Teaching and mentoring students is my greatest joy. Students of all identities are often surprised when they sign up for one of my classes, like “Policing Black Bodies,” and arrive to find a white woman teaching the class. As a scholar writing about inequality for two decades, I teach students of all identities to build their arguments on data and facts, not just their personal experiences. They enter their professions ready to “be the change,” promoting racial and gender justice in every walk of life.


The Beck Family Presidential Medal for Excellence in Research and Scholarship 

Thomas E. Lovejoy, University Professor, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, College of Science

The rewarding aspects of working at Mason are multiple. I have wonderful colleagues across the university, not just in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy, not just in the College of Science and the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation, but also in other colleges and beyond science, including Linda Monson and her wonderful School of Music.

Teaching my graduate course, “Challenges in Biodiversity,” about solving problems in conserving the wonders of life on Earth, gets more rewarding every year with super students and the joy of seeing them grow.

I love working with my PhD and master’s students as their minds sharpen around an individual topic of great importance. I follow the lead of the great ecologist G. Evelyn Hutchinson (my professor), who said he was not interested in making “smudged carbon copies of himself.” (Yes, there really once was such a thing as a carbon copy. The cc on an e-mail or a memo is an evolutionary relict). I revel in students who determine their own intellectual trajectory.

In addition, it is a privilege to be in a university so devoted to open inquiry, one with leadership from department to college to provost to president who resonate with what I do scientifically as well as in the world of policy. Imagine having the entire Cabrera family at Camp 41 in the middle of the Amazon and watching all three generations “get it”—that was truly off the charts.



The John Toups Presidential Medal for Excellence in Teaching 

Patricia Miller, University Professor, School of Music

The most rewarding aspect of my time at Mason is my work with the students, training and preparing them for successful and fruitful careers, and being an integral part of the development and presence of the arts.

When I became a faculty member in 1991, our current School of Music was then only a department. We held many of our classes in trailers, our instruments and equipment were basic, and we had very few music students.

Now, as an All-Steinway School, we have grown into the largest music program in the Commonwealth of Virginia with state-of-the-art facilities, a highly respected world-class faculty, outstanding students from around the world, and an international concert series.

The impact of my teaching and mentorship is reflected in the success of my students, who have won regional, national, and international competitions and awards and are singing on Broadway and with major national and international opera companies.

This award is recognition of the artistic, scholarly, and personal investment I have made at Mason and in the community, both locally and internationally. My passionate teaching coupled with more than 30 years of experience as an international opera and concert artist brings real-world experience into the classroom and studio. This in turn inspires students to explore and develop their unique talents and individual voices.

This award represents my dedication and commitment to each student, to building a thriving vocal program attracting students from all over the world, and, above all, to exemplifying the impact and importance of the arts in a Tier 1 research university.


The John Toups Presidential Medal for Excellence in Teaching 

Linda Apple Monson, Distinguished Service Professor, School of Music

I am deeply humbled to receive the John Toups Presidential Medal for Excellence in Teaching. This award is particularly meaningful to me as my life at Mason has been devoted to making transformative learning experiences happen each day for our students through the study and performance of music. 

My 19 years as a professor at Mason have been guided by an overarching principle—a deep commitment to educational and musical excellence. I have been fortunate to have opportunities at Mason to put this into practice through my teaching, research/performance, service, and leadership of the School of Music. 

Passionate, knowledgeable, enthusiastic, energetic—these words have often been used by others to describe my teaching style. A recent alumna stated, “Dr. Monson guides her students to find the wonderful balance between the scholarly understanding of and passion in performance, knowledge of and joy in the art.” 

Music, an international language, is a gift to be shared. I feel blessed to have had opportunities to share this gift throughout the world with performances, lecture-recitals, and master classes, and am particularly happy that our Mason School of Music is attracting talented artist-scholars from around the world as well as from our great commonwealth! 

Music helps to create community. Mason has given me the opportunity to share our incredible music journey with others, thereby helping to create a meaningful community through the arts and helping to establish needed scholarship support for our music students at Mason.

Music is a collaborative art.  I am grateful for the opportunity to work with an amazing team of artists-scholars at Mason in our faculty ranks and in our student body. 

The John Toups Presidential Medal for Excellence in Teaching is profoundly meaningful to me as this award embraces the heart and soul of what I strive for at all times: educational and musical excellence at the highest levels.