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Nancy Webber
Office of the Provost

Cyndi Connelley-Eskine
Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs

Last modified: Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tracy M. Sonneborn Award and Provost Professors announced

May 11, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University Bloomington Provost Karen Hanson and Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs Tom Gieryn have announced that five Indiana University Bloomington professors will receive prestigious university awards.

Stephen Watt, professor, Department of English, adjunct professor, Department of Theatre and Drama, and associate dean for Undergraduate Education in the College of Arts and Sciences, will receive the 2011 Tracy M. Sonneborn Award. The award is named for the late Tracy M. Sonneborn, an IU biologist who distinguished himself in both teaching and research. Watt will receive a $3,500 cash prize.

In addition to this prize, research funds in the amount of $1,000 will be awarded for the purpose of supporting the research or creative activity of one (or more) of Watts' students. As the Tracy M. Sonneborn Award winner, Watt will give a University-wide lecture during the fall semester following the selection.

The following faculty will be named Provost Professors:

  • Colin Allen, professor, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Cognitive Science Program, member, Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior, adjunct professor, Department of Philosophy, College of Arts and Sciences;
  • Olaf Sporns, professor and associate chair, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences;
  • Richard R. Wilk, professor, Department of Anthropology, College of Arts and Sciences; and
  • Glenn Gass, professor of music, Jacobs School of Music.

Those who are named Provost Professors will carry the title for the remainder of their careers at Indiana University. Each Provost Professor will also be given a $2,500 award for each of the first three years and a $5,000 grant to be used on a project of their choice to demonstrate the ways in which teaching and research are mutually reinforcing.

Steve Watt

Steve Watt

"I enthusiastically congratulate Professors Allen, Gass, Sporns, Watt, and Wilk," said Provost and Executive Vice President Karen Hanson. "The Sonneborn Award and the designation as Provost Professors are reflections of the high esteem in which these professors are held and of their excellence as teachers and researchers. Their ground-breaking work in their individual disciplines is combined with a commitment to inspiring and stimulating their students. Each of these outstanding faculty members has productively intertwined research and teaching, the intertwining so crucial to a great research university, and each is a model for this campus."

"These five faculty members were selected because they are dedicated to bringing the fruits of their research and creative activity to their students," Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs Tom Gieryn said. "We are proud to recognize colleagues who combine excellence in research and teaching, demonstrating once again that these two valued pursuits need not compete with each other."

Stephen Watt

"In [Watt's] prodigiously energetic and productive career," according to Jonathan Elmer, chair of the IU Department of English, "he has exemplified the ideal scholar-citizen, someone for whom the ceaseless interplay between teaching and learning animates all aspect of his professional life -- his scholarly writing, his pedagogy, and his creative work on behalf of the institution."

Watt has achieved a distinguished national and international reputation as a scholar of dramatic literature, the Irish literary tradition, and modernism and mass culture. He has published numerous books, editions, articles, chapters, notes, reviews, and acclaimed works, including Postmodern/Drama: Reading the Contemporary Stage (1998), and Beckett and Contemporary Irish Writing (2009), which he received the Robert Rhodes Prize from the American Conference for Irish Studies in 2010, as well as the groundbreaking Joyce, O'Casey, and the Irish Popular Theater (1991). His popular book When They Weren't Doing Shakespeare: Essays on Nineteenth-Century British and American Theatre (1989, 2011) is now in its second printing. With support by a fellowship from the Dorot Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Jewish Studies at the Ransom Humanities Center from the University of Texas at Austin, his most current book in progress is Irish Schlemiels: Modernism and the Irish-Jewish Unconscious.

Addressing Watt's work on contemporary higher education, professor of English and of Literary and Cultural Studies, Jeffrey J. Williams of Carnegie Mellon points out that "his writing -- notably his co-authored books Academic Keywords: A Devil's Dictionary for Higher Education (1999) and Office Hours: Activism and Change in the Academy (2004) -- have been influential in pointing to some of the problems of corporatization and privatization, particularly as they affect students and faculty" providing remarkable analytical clarity.

Watt has been acknowledged by many for his pedagogical excellence with multiple teaching awards, as well as individual accolades from students. Former graduate student and colleague, now assistant professor of English at Oakland University, L. Bailey McDaniel, states that "Without a doubt, everything and anything I do as an educator that is effective, compassionate, rigorous, or innovative can be traced in some way to the myriad lessons I learned from watching Dr. Watt teach." His ease of explaining difficult material, yet engaging a large group of students or colleagues, has made him a sought after committee chair, member, and lecturer throughout the country during his many years in academia.

Watt has been recognized numerous times for his service and scholarly involvement at Indiana University, as well as throughout the country. He has served as President, Midwest Modern Language Association, 1999-2000; Executive Committee, American Conference for Irish Studies, 1999-2001; and has been the recipient of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Collaborative Research Fellowship, 1999; NEH Fellowship (1998-99); and Howard Fellow (Brown University), 1992-93.

Learn more about Watt at

Colin Allen

Colin Allen

Colin Allen

Allen is an internationally recognized philosopher of evolutionary approaches to animal behavior and cognition, working closely with biologists and psychologists who are dealing with questions about what can legitimately be inferred about the nature of animal cognition from field and laboratory data, but also working on philosophical aspects of artificial intelligence. His books Species of Mind: the Philosophy and Biology of Cognitive Ethology (1992), with M. Bekoff, and Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right from Wrong (2009), with W. Wallach, are both considered influential in the field. His papers on animal mind, concepts and consciousness have been reprinted and translated into multiple languages.

He has been a consultant to the National Academies of Science's Institute for Laboratory Animal Research and the Nuffield Council on Bioethics in the United Kingdom, and has an impact on high-level public science policy both in the United States and beyond.

"In one year, he has given 19 invited and competitive papers in places ranging from every corner of the U.S. to Germany, France, Great Britain, and China," said Domenico Bertoloni Meli, professor and chair of the IU Department of History and Philosophy of Science. Since 1998, he has been consulting and programming for The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and is currently its associate editor. Allen is a recipient of the internationally recognized Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Research Award.

As a recipient of mentor and teaching awards, it has been noted that whether working with undergraduate or graduate students, Allen is "accessible, friendly, and energetic, while also being a powerhouse of intellect and learning," according to Elisabeth A. Lloyd, the Arnold and Maxine Tanis Chair of the IU Department of History and Philosophy of Science, "thus, the students in the Biology Studies Reading Group find him both approachable and insightful."

"Allen has an impressively large impact on cognitive science as conducted locally here at IU and internationally," said Robert Goldstone, IU Chancellor's Professor of Psychological and Brain Science, and Director of the Cognitive Science Program. "He has been a dynamo of research productivity, has garnered impressive amounts of federal grant funding, and has managed to do far more than his fair share of local and national service. I have no idea how he manages to have time for it all, but I am grateful that he does, because the entire IU community had benefited from his efforts. He is a jewel in the crown of cognitive science."

Learn more about Allen at

Glenn Gass

"Gass has earned universal respect and recognition for his teaching and research, having received numerous academic and teaching awards," said Gwyn Richards, dean of the Jacobs School of Music. "His groundbreaking teaching on the Beatles places him at the forefront of Rock and Roll pedagogy."

He is the recipient of the Herman B Wells Lifetime Achievement Award, the Society of Professional Journalists Brown Derby Award, the IU Sylvia Bowman Distinguished Teaching Award, the IU Students Alumni Award, and has consistently been voted the "Best Professor at IU" in many Indiana Daily Student polls, as well a number of other newspapers. He has been inducted into the Faculty Colloquium on Excellence in Teaching.

"Gass has had a major impact on undergraduate musical sophistication, appreciation, and insight," states Bernice A. Pescosolido, IU Distinguished Professor of Sociology. "This is not only because of his classes (which are legendary), but because of the creative activities which Glenn, as a musician and composer, brings to all of his local, national, and international activities."

"Gass combines a serious interest in the subject with an encyclopedic knowledge of his field, and he manages to convey both the details and excitement to his students," said J. Timothy Londergan, director and George F. Getz Jr. Professor in the IU Wells Scholars Program.

In 1982, Gass began his rock history and Beatles courses -- a time when the courses were the first of their kind to be offered through a school of music. His multimedia courses are an outgrowth of his in-depth research surrounding specific musicians, periods of music, cultural phenomena, affected by economic, political, and social issues of the times.

Since every course he has developed has been a new creation, the line between "teaching" and "research" is nonexistent in his mind. He builds his courses from raw beginnings, unable to rely on established researched resources to provide a base. His work has examined most notably the music of the Beatles, the music of Bob Dylan, rock in the Sixties, roots of rock and roll, the Beatles in England, rock history, and most recently rock legend Todd Rundgren -- that resulted in an extensive two-week course titled "The Ballad of Todd Rundgren: Artistic Journeys of a Lifetime." Funding for his work has been supported by local and international grants and fellowships.

He is the author of A History of Rock Music: The Rock & Roll Era (1994).

He has been featured in interviews or as an expert consultant for rock-related topics in many popular media sources, such as Newsweek, TIME, Billboard, U.S. News & World Report, Scholastic Parent & Child, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Chronicle of Higher Education, Wired,, and many local, regional, and national radio and television programs.

Gass has worked closely with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, to create educator guides for special exhibits. He is the recipient of grants in composition from the National Endowment for the Arts, Meet the Composer and the Indiana Arts Commission.

Learn more about Gass at

Olaf Sporns

In a letter supporting Sporns, Chancellor's Professor and Distinguished Professor Linda B. Smith and Chancellor's Professor James Craig, both of the IU Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences both praised Sporns as being among the most important neuroscientists in the world. "Sporns is a world-class scientist who is changing how cognitive neuroscience is being done and how it will be done in the future. He is the instigator of the 'Human Connectome' project -- a project (on par with the human genome project) that maps connectivity in the human brain," Smith and Craig wrote. "As well as being one of the most important computational neuroscientists in the world with near rock-star status in science, Olaf is also one of the best undergraduate teachers in the department, a superb mentor of young scientists, and a citizen who participates fully in all aspects of academic life."

Former student Christopher Honey, now a member of the faculty of the Neuroscience Institute and Department of Psychology at Princeton University, explains that Sporns' "door was always open. His support was unfailing, his counsel measured, his generosity ample and his mind illuminating."

Sporns presents continually at international conferences and workshops on his research concerning computational and cognitive neuroscience; functional integration and binding in the cortex; neural models of perception and action; network structure and dynamics; applications of information theory to the brain; embodied cognitive science; and robotics.

Known for publishing prolifically and prominently, his recent book, Networks of the Brain (2010), is anticipated by his colleague Edward Bullmore, professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, to be recognized as "one of the landmark publications in modern understanding of the human brain."

Sporns serves as co-principal investigator in the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) Training Grant for "The Dynamics of Brain-Body-Environment Systems in Behavior and Cognition," funded by the National Science Foundation and as co-investigator for "Mapping the Human Connectome: Structure, Function, and Heritability," a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Blueprint Project. Sporns serves on numerous editorial boards, including as deputy editor of PLoS Computational Biology, and he has recently been selected for a 2011 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship.

Learn more about Sporns at

Richard R. Wilk

"Wilk is one of the most important, prolific, and widely recognized anthropologists of this generation," said Eduardo S. Brondizio, professor and chair of the IU Department of Anthropology. "He has imprinted his contribution in major ways in the field of economic anthropology, environment and sustainability, consumer culture, and food studies, nationally and internationally."

Richard Wilk

Richard Wilk

His book, Economies and Cultures, is in its third edition, has been translated into seven languages (Korean, Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Portuguese, Greek, and Uzbeck) and is considered today the most important textbook for graduate and undergraduate courses in economic anthropology.

Wilk's states his geographical areas of research specialization are the Caribbean, Latin America, North America, and Belize, with topical interests in economic and applied and cultural anthropology. According to Michael Jackson, professor of anthropology at Harvard University, he is "one of the world's leading anthropological authorities on the economic anthropology of households, the ethnography of consumerism, the anthropology of the Caribbean (particularly Belize), the anthropology of food, fashion, and globalization."

Wilk has developed a growing following as a scholar of the anthropology of food. Besides being the force behind creating IU's internationally recognized food studies program, he has brought numerous food studies scholars to campus for national meetings, and growing numbers of undergraduates and graduate students are applying to the program. As part of his food studies interests, Wilk is also "a leader in our local food and sustainability community, and is involved in local planning for the development of a Bloomington Food Policy Council," says Jeanne Sept, professor, IU Department of Anthropology. This summer he is taking 10 graduate and undergraduate students for a food studies field school in rainforests and resorts in southern Belize.

He is the recipient of numerous honors and grants for his research and teaching. Starting in May, Wilk begins a prestigious visiting professorship at the Centre Norbert Elias of the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Marseille, France.

He has been involved in extensive ethnographic fieldwork in Belize for the last 39 years, as well as in Santa Cruz, Ghana and Togo. He has been involved in archaeological work in the U.S., Belize, and Europe, and has served as a consultant for numerous initiatives in and about Belize.

He is a sought after scholar by the media with frequent interviews and media coverage in the U.S., Latin America, and Europe, including the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), and a wide variety of other media outlets.

Learn more about Wilk at

About the Sonneborn and Provost Professors awards

The Sonneborn award was established in 1985 by the Dean of the Faculties office to honor an IU professor who has achieved distinction as a teacher and as a scholar or artist. The award is named for the late Tracy M. Sonneborn, an IU biologist who distinguished himself in both teaching and research. Sonneborn came to Indiana University in 1939 and became internationally-known for his biological studies specializing in genetics as one of three leading geneticists in the country at the time. Sonneborn was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of the Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, and was one of the first three Indiana University faculty members to be granted the title Distinguished Professor.

The Provost Professorship recognizes faculty who have achieved local, national and international distinction in both teaching and research. The awards have been known since their creation in 1995 as Chancellor's Professors. The change in name reflects an administrative reorganization on the Bloomington campus in 2008. These awards are supported by the generosity of IU Alumni, and over the years only 39 faculty members have earned the title.

For more information about the lecture or the awards, contact Cyndi Connelley-Eskine, Office for Faculty and Academic Affairs, at or 812-855-9973. For an application on the Provost Professor or Tracy M. Sonneborn awards, see