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AU Honors Faculty Get to know the amazing professors working with Honors students

One of the best parts of AU Honors is our community and our professors are are an instrumental part of that community. AU Honors gives faculty members an opportunity to teach on their passions, so students always know that their professors will be just as excited about these classes as they are. All of our faculty have different research interests and rely on different methodologies, so every student can find a professor that shares their interests and will help spark their curiosity!

Take a look at what our professors are curious about and get to know a little more about them before you step into the classroom!

Honors Advisory Committee

The Honors Advisory Committee is made up of faculty representatives from each school and one student representative from the Honors Student Advisory Committee. They meet monthly to discuss Honors concerns and policies.

 

 

Robert Adcock Honors 395 Theories of Inquiry

Pronouns: he/him/his

Additional positions/roles at AU: Senior Professorial Lecturer, School of International Service. I teach courses on research, historically-themed classes on various 19th and 20th topics and figures, and IR theory. 

What’s your research passion and how did your curiosity lead to this? My research passion is the history of the social sciences, as seen through the lens of the politics and sociology of knowledge. As an undergraduate I strayed away from my initial chemistry major into studying political science. I was struck immediately by the different practices and heightened anxiety associated with "science" in my new major, and I have been trying to make sense of the strange things social scientists value, say, and do ever since. 

What is your favorite part of the Honors program/curriculum? I look forward to figuring that out as I learn more about the program/curriculum.

Favorite spot on campus: SIS 355 - great classroom, great view over AU's quad.

Favorite place in DC: Historic Congressional Cemetery

Scott Bass Honors Colloquium: Leadership in Social and Political Movements

Pronouns: he/him/his

Additional positions/roles at AU: Professor in the Department of Public Administration and Policy, School of Public Affairs where I also direct the Center for University Excellence. From 2008-2018 I served as the AU Provost.

What’s your research passion and how did your curiosity lead to this?: Throughout my career, I have been interested in institutional change. I am particularly interested in examining the way institutional structures, cultures, traditions, practices, and policies impact different constituencies. Much of my early work focused on issues of institutional racism in public schools, but my work is best known in the area of aging and public policy. More recently, and based on years of administrative service, I have focused on an examination of higher education. My new award-winning book Administratively Adrift: Overcoming Institutional Barriers for College Student Success (Cambridge University Press, 2022) is a study of the staid modus operandi of colleges and universities and the mismatch between the needs and expectations of current students.

What is your favorite part of the Honors program/curriculum? I am new to the Honors program. Fall 2023 will be the first term I have been directly involved with the program.

Favorite spot on campus: Perhaps the John F. Kennedy Speech Plaza – not because of the plaque itself, but what it stands for. It memorializes a speech delivered at AU on June 10, 1963, by President John F. Kennedy. Kennedy spoke of the importance of promoting world peace and in doing so called for a ban on nuclear testing. It was a time of tension and fear of the possibility of nuclear war between the US and the Soviet Union. Such a nuclear conflict had the capability of mutual annihilation – just as it does so today. It is particularly important at this moment when a nuclear-armed Russia has initiated an unprovoked war against a sovereign nation. This raises the specter of the ghosts of a previous era and elevates the contemporary significance of the 1963 Kennedy speech at AU.

Favorite place in DC: There are many choices, but I enjoy riding my bike on the Capital Crescent Trail along the Potomac River to reach them.

Edward Comstock HNRS-395 Theories of Inquiry

Pronouns: He/Him

Additional positions/roles at AU: Writing Studies Program

What’s your research passion and how did your curiosity lead to this?: I’m interested in the intersections of writing, rhetoric, and philosophy. I’ve also written about how ultra-contemporary neuroscience relates to all of these. My multi-disciplinary academic background, as well as my focus on pedagogy and my students, led me to these interests.

What is your favorite part of the Honors program/curriculum? The students!

Favorite spot on campus: The amphitheater

Favorite place in DC: The Black Cat

Lindsey Green-Simms Complex Prolems: Decolonizing Knowledge?

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Additional positions/roles at AU: Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Literature

What’s your research passion and how did your curiosity lead to this?: I write on African films and novels (and occasionally a music video or photography collection) and this all started back when I was an undergrad and took a French class where we read Francophone West African novels focusing on race, gender, and sexuality. I had been studying French but hadn't thought much about French-speakers outside of France and so that looked like a cool course. After that class, I decided to study abroad in Cameroon, which really piqued my interest in the connections between art, culture, gender, development, modernity, etc. When I was in graduate school, I found a class on African Film and started to notice in the films something that I'd noticed in Cameroon - people talk about cars (fancy cars, broken-down cars, old cars, new cars, etc) quite a bit and in ways that were really different than in the U.S. That led to my dissertation and then to my first book on car culture in West Africa. When I was doing research for that project and watching A LOT of African films, in particular Nollywood films from Nigeria, I stumbled upon a whole lot of popular films that had queer subplots, which was strange to me because from what I'd learned homosexuality was a really taboo topic that pretty much didn't get addressed in popular culture. No one was writing or talking about these films, so I wrote an article and then another and then another and then at some point realized I was writing another book, this one on queer African cinemas. So both of my books really just began with an observation and then grew into their own beings.

What is your favorite part of the Honors program/curriculum? I love the students who come from so many different places and have so many of their own wonderful observations about the world.

Favorite spot on campus: The quad - because I just really love running into students and friends.

Favorite place in DC: A tie between Politics and Prose bookstore and Rock Creek Park. (Perhaps best to combine them and buy a book at Politics and Prose and then find a quiet spot to read it in the Park)

Patrick Thaddeus Jackson HNRS-395 Theories of Inquiry

Pronouns: he/him

Additional positions/roles at AU: Director of AU Honors! I’m also a Professor of International Studies in SIS, and I used to be Associate Dean in SIS as well.

What’s your research passion and how did your curiosity lead to this? I have always been curious about the sense that people, including me, make of their lives, and in the kinds of shared cultural resources that we all use in doing so — some of those are widely shared, some not as widely, some are repressed by official narratives, some are even resurrected years after after their apparent demise. “Puzzled” might be an even better word here, since a lot of what people (including me) find meaningful is pretty puzzling if you look at it from the outside! This curiosity has led to a number of my intellectual interests: personal and group identity; narratives and stories; what it means to know something; rhetoric and social action; how we envision our collective future. I’ve done work on the idea of 'the West', the philosophy of (social) science with an emphasis on how different practical understandings of our hook-up to the world generate different ways of producing knowledge, and the relationship between pop-cultural artifacts (mainly novels and films/television shows) and their political and social contexts. At the moment I am working on a book about the “disenchantment” of the contemporary world and its consequences for how we understand ourselves and our future.

What is your favorite part of the Honors program/curriculum? Theories of Inquiry. Allowing students the opportunity to explore different ways of framing a research project, and working with them to discipline passion into a proposal, is an incredibly rewarding experience. And the fact that in Theories of Inquiry we span a very wide methodological span — wider than one would get in any single department or school — makes things even more dynamic.

Favorite spot on campus: Davenport Coffee Lounge in SIS, particularly the outside tables.

Favorite place in DC: either the Air and Space Museum or the National Museum of African American History and Culture. And I can be found at Nationals Park pretty frequently, despite the team’s awful performance lately.

Mohamed Nimer Complex Problems: Religion and World Politic

Additional positions/roles at AU: He has been a professor at American University since 2008, teaching International Affairs and Research Methods courses. He has taught the Complex Problems course Religion and World Politics since 2018 and has served as a member of the Complex Problems Committee

What’s your research passion and how did your curiosity lead to this?: Professor Nimer uses quntitative methods to study international development and the Middle East. He has worked in different research capacities that allowed him to develop databases, commission surveys and present research findings in specialized public forums. He has traveled to Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Turkey to conduct field research on Middle East politics and development.

What is your favorite part of the Honors program/curriculum?: The interdisciplinary approach to inquiry

Favorite spot on campus: Kay Spiritual Life Center

Favorite place in DC: The US Botanic Garden

Mary Mintz AU Honors Librarian

Pronouns: She/her/hers

Additional positions/roles at AU: Humanities and Honors Librarian

What’s your research passion and how did your curiosity lead to this?: My research focuses on the reception and reputation of Jane Austen in the U.S. during the nineteenth century. How did I get there? It’s a long story, but I am currently president of the Jane Austen Society of North America.

What is your favorite part of the Honors program/curriculum?: Helping Honors students focus their team projects and identify mentors for the projects.

Favorite spot on campus: The University Library—of course!

Favorite place in DC: The National Gallery of Art

Mirjana Morosini HNRS-395 Theories of Inquiry

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Additional positions/roles at AU: Professorial Lecturer with SIS, where I teach courses on ethnic conflict and genocide; advanced research methods; justice, ethics, and human rights; identity, race, gender, and culture, as well as two new courses this semester: a course on historical justice and an SIS Honors course on fascism, communism, and capitalism.

What’s your research passion and how did your curiosity lead to this?: I am an historian of modern Europe with particular emphases on Germany and broader Central Europe, the Balkans, Italy, and modern European imperial overseas possessions. My work focuses on comparative and transnational history of ethnic politics, ethnic conflict and genocide, nationalism, borderland identities, and the history of science and technology. Certain aspects of my research interest are related to my personal (hi)story. I hail from Istria, a trilingual and multiethnic region of Europe, today divided between Croatia, Slovenia, and Italy. Istria has been, and remains today, a borderland. Once a borderland defined by the competing ideologies and political systems (divided by the Iron Curtain from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic), the Istria of today is slowly healing and returning to a place of cultures in contact rather than a borderland in conflict.

What is your favorite part of the Honors program/curriculum? It is the students and their inquisitiveness, their desire to learn, and excel academically. AU Honors students want to be challenged and are encouraged to challenge their professors and peers. Such a dynamic interaction produces a highly rewarding learning and teaching environment.

Favorite spot on campus: My answer may surprise you, but my favorite spot on campus is my office. This is the place where my students can find me during my office hours, and often outside of my office hours. I love to receive visits from my current, prospective, and former students! In fact, just the other day, I received a visit from a former student of mine who hails from Cambodia.

Favorite place in DC: As an historian, as you can imagine, I love to spend a lot of time in various DC archives as well as at the Library of Congress. Unrelated to my work, I love to visit the National Mall and especially the National Gallery of Art. Botanic Garden is my other favorite place to visit when downtown.

David Pike Complex Problems: Displaced Lives in the DMV

Pronouns: he or they

Additional positions/roles at AU: Professor, Department of Literature. I teach courses in literature, film, and urban culture

What’s your research passion and how did your curiosity lead to this?: What I call urban imaginaries--the myriad often contradictory ways in which we (and everyone else) makes sense of and imagines cities. I've been doing versions of this research since the 1980s. Curiosity led me to it because, like cities, the topic is limitless, endlessly fascinating, ever-changing, and always timely. And it allows me pretty much to do everything I like doing--walking, looking, talking to people, reading, seeing movies, listening to music, and so on, while calling it "research." And it is! I've somehow managed to publish research on, to name a few topics: alligators in the sewers, maps of imaginary subway systems, the end of the world (in every form imaginable), nuclear pop music and music videos. And also what these have to do with inequality, social change, poverty, racism, and climate change--although not always all at once. You can browse (and fact-check these claims) at my online archive.

What is your favorite part of the Honors program/curriculum?: Well, I love the two courses I teach, but my favorite part is working with students one-on-one on their own projects in the years after they take those courses.

Favorite spot on campus: The LIT Lounge, the Humanities Lab, and the Atrium, either when events are happening in them or just when students and faculty are hanging out or doing work.

Favorite place in DC: Anywhere I'm walking. If I'm inside, one of DC's amazing independent bookstores, like the nearby Politics and Prose or the Red-Line accessible Loyalty Books, or maybe my favorite of DC's who-knows-how-many museums: the National Building Museum.

Kendra Salois HNRS-395 Theories of Inquiry

Pronouns: she/hers

Additional positions/roles at AU: assistant professor of ethnomusicology, Music Program, Department of Performing Arts

What’s your research passion and how did your curiosity lead to this?: The questions that animate my research include: how do musicians make a living during times of sweeping socio-economic change, and how does that affect their music? How does popular music performance come to mean so many contradictory, but equally important, things to the diverse citizens of a nation? And how do states like the US use popular music in their cultural diplomacy efforts abroad? As an ethnomusicologist, I combine ethnographic research, musical participation and analysis, critical reading, and methods like oral history to collect the data from which I construct arguments around these questions. Most of my research focuses on North Africa, especially Morocco. I discovered ethnomusicology as an undergraduate music major and was thrilled to learn it combined all of my favorite parts of my college education, plus world travel!

What is your favorite part of the Honors program/curriculum?: I think the opportunity to build projects and friendships with your talented Honors classmates is one of the best parts of the program. As an instructor, my favorite part is watching students learn to support and challenge each other as we all refine our ideas.

Favorite spot on campus: the picture window looking onto the Quad from the top floor of Bender Library

Favorite place in DC: That's tough! The National Museum of African-American History and Culture, the DC Arboretum, and my favorite bagel shop are all tied!

Cathy Schaeff Complex Problems: Desire, what's love got to do with it?

Additional positions/roles at AU: Associate Professor in Department of Biology

What’s your research passion and how did your curiosity lead to this? Several passions… one is researching identity from an evolutionary framework. Why do we need to express our identity to feel healthy and whole? How is our identity embodied, connect to our and expressed through sense of our body? Currently looking at the experience of trans and asexual individuals.

What is your favorite part of the Honors program/curriculum? They are all interesting but the culminating challenge course is very cool.

Favorite spot on campus: Sitting by the beautiful willow tree that is across from the Hall of Science.

Favorite place in DC: Women’s Art Museum if there is an interesting exhibit (I saw one on the art of Burning Man that was fabuous!)

Nancy Snider Complex Problems: Electric! Music Since Edison

Pronouns: She/Her

Additional positions/roles at AU: Applied Music, Director

What’s your research passion and how did your curiosity lead to this? Music. That says it all!

What is your favorite part of the Honors program/curriculum? Being in a community of people who love ideas and learning

Favorite spot on campus: DAV

Favorite place in DC: Wherever I am playing my ‘cello