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Last modified: Wednesday, April 17, 2013

IU Bloomington names Provost Professors, Sonneborn Award recipient

April 17, 2013

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- K. Anne Pyburn, a professor in the Department of Anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences, has been selected to receive the 2013 Tracy M. Sonneborn Award, which honors an Indiana University Bloomington faculty member for outstanding research and teaching.

Also, Pyburn and Christoph Irmscher and Stephen Watt, both professors in the Department of English in the College of Arts and Sciences, have been named IU Bloomington Provost Professors.

Pyburn, an archaeologist who studies ancient Maya cities and the ethics of heritage conservation, will deliver the annual Sonneborn Lecture during the fall 2013 semester. The award and lecture are named for the late IU biologist Tracy M. Sonneborn, who was one of the leading geneticists in the country and was highly regarded for his teaching. Watt received the Sonneborn Award in 2011.

"As this year's Sonneborn Award winner, Professor Pyburn will have an additional opportunity to support student research under her mentorship," said Provost and Executive Vice President Lauren Robel. "I am delighted to recognize her outstanding work uncovering not only insights about ancient societies, but also the sociopolitical frameworks through which they are viewed today. Her Sonneborn lecture this fall is sure to be a wonderful occasion for the campus."

The designation of Provost Professor recognizes faculty who have achieved local, national and international distinction in both teaching and research. The position was created in 1995 and was originally called Chancellor's Professor. The name changed in 2009.

"Professors Irmscher, Pyburn and Wyatt are exemplars of deeply invested scholarship and teaching at IU Bloomington," Robel said. "This award will enable them to further pursue projects that demonstrate that excellent teaching and research are mutually reinforcing."

K. Anne Pyburn

Anne Pyburn

K. Anne Pyburn

Print-Quality Photo

Pyburn has directed major excavations of three ancient Maya cities in Central America, where she discovered a previously unknown style of water conservation and irrigation technology, developed a new perspective on ancient political economy, and has proposed an alternative explanation for the Maya "collapse." Most recently she has collaborated with colleagues in Central Asia promoting grassroots development of projects for cultural preservation.

Through her work she has inspired students, introduced curricular reforms and promoted the rights of indigenous communities. Pyburn has conducted numerous archaeological field schools in Belize, where she emphasized collaboration with the local community in the context of rigorous scientific research. In Kyrgyzstan, she has worked with archaeologists and citizens' groups to develop projects for cultural resource management.

"Anne is a major international scholar and educator on the leading edge of archaeological and anthropological thought," said Catherine Tucker, chair of the Department of Anthropology. "Her energetic leadership has helped redefine archaeology as a discipline that involves living people as much as those of the past, one that empowers indigenous and minority populations to become active participants in interpreting their cultural heritage."

Pyburn has taught popular undergraduate courses on the scientific method, the ancient Maya and women in prehistory, as well as seminars on research methods, ethics and gender. She was principal investigator for the National Science Foundation-funded Making Archaeology Teaching Relevant to the XXI Century project, founded the Archaeology in Social Context Ph.D. program at IU and directs the Center for Archaeology in the Public Interest. She has chaired the Ethics Committee of the American Anthropological Association and is vice president-elect of the World Archaeological Congress. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Reed College and a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona.

Christoph Irmscher

Irmscher teaches and writes about 19th- and 20th-century American and Canadian literature, and he has a longstanding interest in the field of eco-criticism, specifically early American nature writing.

His recent biography, "Louis Agassiz: Creator of American Science," was selected as Editor's Choice by The New York Times Book Review and has also been praised by Nature, the Christian Science Monitor and other publications. He is also the author of "Public Poet, Private Man: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at 200"; "Longfellow Redux"; and "The Poetics of Natural History"; and the editor of the Library of America edition of "John James Audubon's Writings and Drawings."

"His scholarship is sweeping; it has substance and true significance," said Werner Sollors, the Henry B. and Anne M. Cabot Professor of English Literature at Harvard University. "His contributions have been meaningful to, and will hopefully affect, the future direction of literary studies as well as environmentalism in the United States and abroad."

Irmscher has curated exhibits on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Walt Whitman, Charles Darwin and IU Distinguished Professor Emeritus Scott Russell Sanders. His undergraduate courses are highly rated by students, and graduate students describe him as an outstanding mentor. He also has taught two summer seminars on Audubon at IU's Lilly Library, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. He has doctoral and postdoctoral degrees from the University of Bonn.

Stephen Watt

Watt is a scholar of dramatic literature, the Irish literary tradition, modernism and mass culture. He is also known for writing and speaking about the state of higher education.

His most recent book, "Beckett and Contemporary Irish Writing," won the Robert Rhodes Prize from the American Conference for Irish Studies. He is the author or editor of 11 books on topics ranging from 19th-century theater to the "cultural politics of 007." With Cary Nelson, he has written two debate-changing books about higher education, "Academic Keywords" and "Office Hours: Activism and Change in the Academy." He is working on a book that examines cultural interactions between Irish-American and Jewish-American immigrants in the U.S.

"He has had a powerful impact as a teacher, in the classroom and as a peerless and generous advisor of graduate students, and also as the co-author of textbooks and editions designed for undergraduate use," said Jonathan Elmer, chair of the English department.

Watt twice received IU's Teaching Excellence Award for undergraduate teaching, and former graduate students praise his judgment, generosity and attention to their academic and professional growth. He has been chair and director of graduate studies for the English department and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. His Ph.D. is from the University of Illinois.

"The presentation of the Sonneborn Award and the selection of Provost Professors are reminders that exemplary teaching often goes hand in hand with outstanding research and scholarship," said Tom Gieryn, vice provost for faculty and academic affairs. "Professors Pyburn, Irmscher and Watt are to be commended for their outstanding work in both areas."

Provost Professors receive an annual award of $2,500 for three years and a $5,000 grant for a project to demonstrate that teaching and research are mutually reinforcing. The winner of the Sonneborn Award receives $3,500, and another $1,000 is awarded to support the research or creative activity of one or more students.

A reception to honor Irmscher, Pyburn and Watt will be scheduled in the fall 2013 semester.