Citations for 2014 Recipients

Excellence in Teaching at the Pre-College Level 2014

Julie Draskoczy- Zigoris, Jewish Community High School of the Bay, San Francisco

Julie Draskoczy-Zigoris has taught Soviet culture and history in the Humanities Department of the Jewish Community High School of the Bay in San Francisco since 2012. She arrived at her present position by way of Stanford University, where she worked for two years as a postdoctoral fellow after completing her Ph.D. in Russian literature with honors from the University of Pittsburgh in 2010. In her three years on the faculty at the Jewish Community High School, Julie has already earned a reputation among her colleagues and students for her intellect and commitment to professional development, and especially for the creative spirit and exceptional sense of humor that she brings to each lesson plan. She designs innovative assignments that engage and challenge her students, and has taken them on service learning trips to New Orleans and Israel. Her range is truly remarkable: over the last decade she has become one of the country’s leading voices in GULAG studies, yet she has no trouble making the depth of her scholarship accessible and relatable to her teenage students. Her students are acutely aware of how lucky they are. They call her “Dr. D” not only because her last name may be difficult to pronounce, but also out of respect for the rigor she brings to her classroom.

Especially remarkable about Julie’s career is the way that her personal convictions and commitments are inextricably tied to her teaching philosophy. Julie is a role model for service learning andfor extending the educational privilege beyond the walls of the traditional classroom, far beyond the definition of the traditional student. Julie has taught Soviet history, memoir writing, and even yoga at San Quentin Prison. Imagine for a moment the following scenario: you are standing at the front of a dimly lit room, the only female behind a barred gate. Thirty mats are spread out on the floor in front of you, on each mat stands a man serving a lifetime sentence. Earlier that day, you had led some of these same men in a lesson on Lenin’s electrification of the countryside; now you are leading them in a sun salutation. This snapshot from Julie’s portfolio speaks volumes about her commitment, her patience, her scholarly range, her grace, and her sense of humor. There are few educators as qualified for such an award as Julie. She is innovative in her instruction, a leader in her field of scholarship, and firm in her commitments to the democratization of education.

Excellence in Teaching at the Postsecondary Level 2014

Bojan Belić, University of Washington and Priscilla Meyer, Wesleyan University

In Bojan Belić, AATSEEL honors an extraordinary language teacher whose pedagogical range and breadth of expertise are almost as dazzling as the life-changing results he achieves in the classroom. A Senior Lecturer in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian and Russian and Slavic Linguistics at the University of Washington, Dr. Belić also serves as the Language Coordinator for the Slavic Department, and teaches a general education course on Slavic cultures. No matter which of these many hats he is wearing, Dr. Belić receives rave reviews: those fortunate enough to find themselves in his classes describe him as "the best professor here"; "the best and most extraordinary language teacher I have ever encountered"; "by far the best professor I have ever had, in any subject." He has been nominated for the University's Distinguished Teaching Award no fewer than six times.

Slavic languages have the reputation of being difficult to learn, but Dr Belić's students report feeling just the opposite: as one of his B/C/S students testifies, "The very first day of class is one I still recall vividly. From the moment I entered the classroom, I was struck by Bojan’s energy, enthusiasm and control over the class, which he conducted almost solely in BCS. All of us were flabbergasted by how much we were able to understand and say after just one day of class." A colleague concurs: "I came out of the class . . . inspired to learn a beautiful and difficult language and . . . energized by a lively, challenging and thoroughly enjoyable classroom atmosphere." As the latter comment suggests, truly inspired language teachers transform their students' lives in ways that go far beyond mundane questions of grammar and vocabulary, and Dr Belić is no exception: "With wit, generosity of spirit, and ceaseless encouragement, Bojan gives his best to his students and they in turn do their best for him. Mutual respect and a shared sense of discovery are everywhere apparent in Bojan’s classroom, which truly opens new worlds and new possibilities to his students." A student in Dr. Belić's Russian class agrees: "He is excited about our learning and makes sure we are excited too. Each day he would stretch our thinking and inspire us to continue learning more. He didn’t explicitly tell us to go home and watch Russian movies or listen to Russian music, but I did those things anyway, because when I left a class feeling so happy and fulfilled, I wanted more and more. No other teacher has ever done that for me."

A "consummate and charismatic pedagogue," Bojan Belić exemplifies how inspiring teaching can truly bring Slavic and East European languages to life for our students. AATSEEL is proud to recognize him with this Award for Excellence in Post-Secondary Teaching.

Priscilla Meyer has been teaching at Wesleyan University since 1968. Through all the many changes the institution has experienced, she has devoted her energies to teaching undergraduates Russian language at all levels, but particularly at the advanced level, as well as Russian literature both in Russian and in translation. She was instrumental in founding the interdisciplinary Russian and Soviet Studies Program, which now (as the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies Program) is the entity through which students at Wesleyan can major in Russian.

Professor Meyer has splendidly embodied the ideal teacher-scholar model that is a pride of Wesleyan. Her teaching and her publication record are closely intertwined. She is a dedicated, innovative, and inspiring teacher who is always open to newness and change. She is the perfect mentor: fiercely intelligent, extremely attentive, consistently challenging the limits of students’ thought.

Professor Meyer lives by literature: there’s always a line to quote, or a book to recommend, and adapted screenplay to discuss. Apart from her innumerable contributions to Nabokov and Aksyonov, she has always been a guiding light for her students at Wesleyan, an invaluable thesis advisor. Her unmetered support for her students, and constant, exciting questioning, makes her a teacher beyond compare. By holding students to high standards, she fosters their learning. Her characteristic receptiveness and enthusiasm, the dialogic model of her teaching truly allows her students to flourish. She has also made herself available in the years following her students’ graduation, and she has helped develop them from a student to a scholar.

One of her students wrote, “despite Professor Meyer’s petite build, I find that the phrase ‘standing on the shoulders of giants effectively captures the way in which I have used her teaching and scholarship as a foundation for my own approaches to these endeavors. I will always be thankful to Professor Meyer for showing me the thrill of intellectual discovery and dialogue, and for nurturing in me the confidence to carve out my own unique path in academia. I endorse her wholeheartedly for Excellence in Post-Secondary Teaching.”

Distinguished Service to AATSEEL 2014

Patricia Zody

Dr. Patricia Zody has a long history of commitment to AATSEEL and to the profession more broadly. In addition to Executive Director for AATSEEL (2006-2011), her service includes experience as the Program Manager of the Overseas Language Flagship and African Languages Initiative (2010-2014) for the American Councils for International Education (Washington, DC) and Director for the Center for Language Studies at Beloit College, where she had been closely involved "on the ground" with language learning and all the associated cultural values of language study. Pat’s tireless work as Chair of the Annual National Post-Secondary Russian Essay Contest (2001-2011) with the American Councils of Teachers of Russian is another example of Pat’s dedication to organizations that not only facilitate learning, but also protect the interests of the profession. Among her many successes are her contributions to the winning Language Flagship Grants (2011-2014) and the African Languages Initiative Grants (2012-2014) at ACIE.

We at AATSEEL have long treasured Pat's focus, energy, and commitment to getting important things done right. We are proud to have the opportunity to confer on her the 2015 Award for Distinguished Service to AATSEEL.

Outstanding Service to the Profession 2014

William Mills Todd III, Harvard University

William Mills Todd's contributions to the profession span so many domains of activity that he could be fairly described as a household name in Slavic Studies. His dedication to students, colleagues, and institutions is as well-known as his ground-breaking and influential scholarship, which has inspired more than one generation of Slavists and was recognized by AATSEEL's award for Outstanding Contribution to Scholarship in 2005. Above all, however, Bill Todd is known for being personally present in the professional lives of his colleagues and students, offering support, guidance, and friendship, always generous with his time and wisdom.

To many of us, Bill is best known through his two justly celebrated monographs, Fiction and Society in the Age of Pushkin: Ideology, Institutions, and Narrative and The Familiar Letter as a Literary Genre in the Age of Pushkin, both of which have been translated into Russian. His scholarly contributions span almost every conceivable genre: from journal and encyclopedia articles, to introductions to literary works, to the edited collection Literature and Society in Imperial Russia, 1800-1914. But his influence doesn't end there; Bill has also directed over three dozen dissertations, read innumerable drafts of articles and monographs, and mentored younger scholars in every aspect of their careers. Over the course of his exemplary career, he has also assumed leadership roles both within and beyond the walls of the university: chairing Slavic and Comparative Literature departments at Stanford and Harvard; serving on selection committees for IREX, NEH, SSRC, and the Guggenheim Foundation, among many others; and participating actively in Slavic forums, where he shares his expertise and insights equally generously with established and beginning scholars. But Bill is perhaps most admired and beloved as a dedicated teacher and mentor to undergraduate and graduate students alike. It is no accident that he was invited to teach one of AATSEEL's first Advanced Seminars, at the 2009 conference—and no coincidence that he said yes! While his lectures and seminars are justly admired, Bill's role as a teacher has long extended beyond the classroom, and even into his own home, where for years he has hosted Harvard's graduate student Literary Colloquium, opening his doors to the rising generation of Slavists.

A brilliant scholar, an inspiring teacher, and a generous mentor, Bill Todd is one of those rare people who makes a difference—in the lives of students, colleagues, advisees, readers, and scholars. No one could be more richly deserving of this award for Outstanding Service to the Profession.

Outstanding Contribution to Scholarship 2014

Mark Leiderman Lipovetsky, University of Colorado

The name Mark Leiderman Lipovetsky needs no introduction to either American or Russian Slavists. Mark is our leading theoretician of Russian postmodernism, a scholar who has both defined and shaped our understanding of the field during the past fifteen years. His contributions to the study of contemporary Russian literature and culture generally, including his work on modern drama, cultural tropes, children’s literature, wondertales, and film, have influenced all scholars working in these areas. Mark is the author of eight books, over one hundred articles, and has edited numerous literary anthologies that have benefitted the teaching of Slavic Studies. Among his most influential monographs are Russian Postmodernist Fiction: Dialogue with Chaos (1999), Paralogies: Transformation of (Post)modernist Discourse in Russian Culture of the 1920s-2000s (2008), Performing Violence: Literary and Theatrical Experiments of New Russian Drama (with Birgit Beumers, 2009), and Charms of the Cynical Reason: The Transformations of the Trickster Trope in Soviet and Post-Soviet Culture (2011). Most significantly, Mark has achieved what is most challenging, yet most valuable to our field – he has identified new directions and topics in contemporary Russian culture, whether the historical continuity between Russian modernism and postmodernism or the conceptualization of violence in contemporary drama and the current literary discourse, and has highlighted seminal figures in the cultural landscape.

A case in point is his present curatorship of the new five-volume collected works of Dmitrii Prigov, the founder of literary conceptualism, and his editing of Monads (2013), the first volume in the NLO series. In his critical writing, publishing initiatives, and participation in literary award juries both in Russia and the US, Mark has served as an intellectual bridge between the two scholarly communities. His warm-hearted generosity toward Slavic colleagues, his energy and sense of humor coexist with a ferociously serious advocacy for the importance of culture in our lives. Mark Leiderman’s dedication to and engagement with Russian culture and Slavic Studies is an inspiration to all of us and we honor his achievements with the AATSEEL Award for Outstanding Contributions to Scholarship.