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Three Holy Cross Professors Honored for Exemplary Scholarship and Student Advising

July 13th, 2016 by 
Marfuggi winners 2016

From left, Mark Freeman, Helen Freear-Papio and Leon Claessens have all won Marfuggi Awards, 2016.

Tom Rettig

Three faculty members at the College of the Holy Cross were recognized for exemplary scholarship and student advising — Leon Claessens, associate professor of biology, and Helen Freear-Papio, lecturer of Spanish and director of the foreign language assistants program are the recipients of the College’s Mary Louise Marfuggi Faculty Awards. The annual awards are made possible by a generous gift from Richard A. Marfuggi, M.D. ’72 in honor of his mother.

Mark Freeman, professor of psychology and distinguished professor of ethics and society received the Distinguished Faculty Scholarship Award. This new award is presented to a faculty member with an exceptionally distinguished record of scholarly achievement throughout his or her career.

Mary Louise Marfuggi Faculty Award for Outstanding Scholarship

Claessens received the Mary Louise Marfuggi Faculty Award for Outstanding Scholarship. This annual award was established to honor a member of the faculty for outstanding achievement in the creation of original work in the arts and sciences over an 18-month period.

Claessens is a world-renowned paleontologist whose research focuses on vertebrate paleontology and anatomy. Announcing the awards during her annual spring address to the faculty, Margaret Freije, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College, highlighted Claessens’ recent achievements. This included the publication of the first comprehensive atlas of dodo anatomy, based on the only existing fully intact skeleton of a single bird, which Claessens located on the island of Mauritius. The atlas, titled “Anatomy of the dodo (Raphus cucullatus, L.1758): An osteological study of the Thirioux specimens,” which was published in November 2015, is a bone-by-bone description of dodo anatomy. It is also the first 3-D atlas for the dodo, and a complement to both the fully intact skeleton as well as an additional partially intact skeleton, which Claessens tracked down at the Durban Natural Science Museum in South America.

Claessens’ work and research on the dodo involved input from Holy Cross students, collaborators from universities and museums around the world, and gives insight on the species before its extinction due to the arrival of human settlements. His work also entails utilizing well-established research methods in his field and innovative digital techniques, particularly through laser scans, to change the preconceived understanding of the dodo’s anatomy and infamous “flightless” locomotion. Claessens’ findings and work have been published in media outlets around the world, (including a recent article in The Atlantic), and he has presented his research at numerous international conferences, including the 74th Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, which was held in Berlin, Germany in 2014.

“The 3-D atlas represents the culmination of years of work on the only complete dodo skeleton in existence,” Claessens said. “It’s amazing that it took more than 300 years for the first comprehensive atlas of dodo anatomy to see the light of day, and extremely gratifying that the work is finally completed. There is still so much we can learn from the dodo that is relevant for understanding the biology of animals alive today.”

A faculty member since 2005, Claessens earned his Ph.D. in biology from Harvard University. He teaches courses on topics such as vertebrate history, comparative morphology, Mesozoic life and general biology. Claessens was also the recipient of a National Science Foundation grant for his digital archives on bird anatomy and the dodo, Aves 3D: An Online Database of Three-Dimensional Avian Skeletal Morphology.

Mary Louise Marfuggi Faculty Award for Academic Advisement

Freear-Papio was named the recipient of the Mary Louise Marfuggi Faculty Award for Academic Advisement. This award is given to a faculty member who has demonstrated effective academic advisement and mentorship of students that was extraordinary in quality and sustained over at least three years, and is based on student nominations. In addition to her regular advising, she has served as the primary advisor and mentor to Holy Cross’ foreign language assistants (FLAs) for the last 18 years, helping them to adjust to life in the U.S. and to their role at the College.

In her address, Freije quoted one of the student-submitted nominations of Freear-Papio: “I first met her when I was a student struggling in her class. She always took time to support students like me who needed extra help. She is a woman who I regard now as a mentor, and I still seek her advice in academic and non-academic matters.”

“I am absolutely thrilled and honored to have been nominated by my students for the Marfuggi Award,” Freear-Papio said. “I truly enjoy helping my advisees, students and FLAs negotiate all aspects of life at Holy Cross.”

Freear-Papio, who joined the College as a faculty member in 1993, earned her Ph.D. in Spanish literature from the University of Connecticut. Her research focuses on female identity, violence against women, and historical memory in contemporary Spanish drama written by women since the 1980s.

In addition to directing the FLA program, she also teaches a variety of courses across the Spanish department’s curriculum. These include elementary and intermediate Spanish (in both the traditional classroom and through the DISC program), introduction to textual analysis, aspects of Spanish culture, and readings in Spanish literature. Freear-Papio has also been an invited guest professor at other colleges. She recently taught a graduate seminar at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, titled “Teoría feminista, escritura femenina: el caso de las dramaturgas,” in which she employed feminist theory to help students achieve a deeper understanding of the principal women playwrights of contemporary Spain.

Distinguished Faculty Scholarship Award

In recognition of his distinguished record of scholarship throughout his career, a record that includes five books and 86 articles and chapters, and his significant contributions over the past eighteen months, Freeman received the Distinguished Faculty Scholarship Award. Freeman specializes in the history and philosophy of psychology. In her address, Freije called attention to Freeman’s most recent work that includes the publication of one book, one edited volume, 18 articles and chapters, and keynote presentations at multiple conferences across the U.S. and abroad.

Freije also highlighted Freeman’s most recent book, “The Priority of the Other: Thinking and Living Beyond the Self” (Oxford University Press, 2014). As one of his colleagues noted, in this book Freeman envisions “a psychology that moves beyond the discipline’s conventional focus on the self, and towards an approach that regards the Other – not only other persons, but also nature, art and God – as primary.” Freije also remarked that the Committee on Faculty Scholarship noted that his work reflects a “paradigmatic shift” in his field, and another nominator called him a “pioneer in qualitative, phenomenologically inspired psychology.”

“For many years, I’ve worked hard to help build a more humanistic, experience-based form of psychology,” Freeman said. “My longstanding interest in what has come to be called ‘narrative psychology’—which looks toward people’s lives and life stories as a way of exploring the human condition—is very much in keeping with this project. So too are my more recent efforts at bringing the idea of the Other more to the forefront of the discipline. I’m extremely grateful to be recognized for these efforts in the form of the Distinguished Faculty Scholarship Award.”

Freeman, who joined the College as a faculty member in 1986, earned his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. Freeman is the author of “Hindsight: The Promise and Peril of Looking Backward” (Oxford, 2010); “Finding the Muse: A Sociopsychological Inquiry into the Conditions of Artistic Creativity” (Cambridge, 1994); “Rewriting the Self: History, Memory, Narrative” (Routledge, 1993); and numerous articles on issues ranging from the psychology of memory and identity to the psychology of art and religion. In 2002, Freeman was named the W. Arthur Garrity, Sr. Professor in Human Nature, Ethics and Society for a four-year term. He also received the Arthur J. O’Leary Faculty Scholarship Award from Holy Cross in 2010. He is a fellow in the American Psychological Association and serves as editor for the Oxford University Press series “Explorations in Narrative Psychology.”

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