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SU Faculty Earn $80,000 USM Elkins Award

Elkins ProfessorshipSALISBURY, MD---From creating an organic farm and field station to integrating research on Amazon deforestation into the classroom, Drs. Michael Lewis and Jill Caviglia-Harris have big plans for Salisbury University’s new Environmental Studies Department.

Together, they recently garnered support for their efforts, earning the prestigious Wilson H. Elkins Professorship from the University System of Maryland (USM). The honor includes an $80,000 award.

“These two faculty members are committed researchers, scholars, teachers and mentors; I look forward to what they will accomplish as Elkins Professors,” said SU President Janet Dudley-Eshbach. “Drs. Caviglia-Harris and Lewis are faculty, who, in Wilson Elkins’ own words, have helped this university ‘rise above the commonplace to nurture the creative spirit of our youth.’”

Their three-part proposal for the award includes creating an on-campus organic farm; planning and designing a field research station; and expanding Caviglia-Harris’ existing research on the Brazilian Amazon.  The farm will supply food to SU Dining Services and provide teaching opportunities for college and K-12 students.  The sustainable research station will allow for study and exploration of the regional environment from a property surrounded by The Nature Conservancy’s Nassawango Creek preserve.  Dr. Michael LewisCaviglia-Harris’ work, which has already involved some students, will be used to facilitate ongoing undergraduate research through the development a team-taught course and a campus-based summer research institute.

These projects will “transform student learning by providing greater research and experiential opportunities,” Lewis said. The results, according to Caviglia-Harris, will elevate the academic quality of the new department and facilitate meaningful outreach for students, locally and globally.

Lewis, an environmental historian in the Fulton School of Liberal Arts, has been a driving force behind the development of SU’s Environmental Studies program, now over 100 majors strong, and establishment of the new interdisciplinary department.  Based on his conservation work in India, his 2004 book Inventing Global Ecology was praised by journals including Nature and American Historical Review. He has published 14 articles and essays on conservation and environmental history, and edited the book American Wilderness.  Lewis won the Fulton School Outstanding Teacher Award in 2010 Dr. Jill Caviglia-Harrisand the Student Government Association’s Outstanding Professor Award in 2011.

Caviglia-Harris, a member of the Perdue School of Business' Economics and Finance Department, also teaches environmental economics for the new Environmental Studies Department. She has secured three National Science Foundation grants totaling over $796,000 in support of her research in the Brazilian Amazon, which has led to more than 20 published articles. A champion of undergraduate research, she received the USM Board of Regents Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2010 and the Kenneth G. Elzinga Distinguished Teaching Award of the Southern Economic Association in 2011. She also has published articles on teaching, including in the International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education.

Both faculty members have earned SU’s Distinguished Faculty Award.

The Elkins Professorship was established to perpetuate the contributions of Wilson Elkins, a Rhodes Scholar who led the University of Maryland to new levels of distinction as its president from 1954-1978. When the University System of Maryland began in 1988, Elkins agreed to extend his professorship to the entire USM family.

Six other SU faculty have earned the professorship: Dr. K. Peter Lade of the History Department in 1999; Drs. Harry Basehart and Fran Kane of the Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement, together, in 2004 and 2005; Dr. Brian Polkinghorn of the Center for Conflict Resolution in 2007 and 2008; and Dr. Michael Scott of the Eastern Shore Regional GIS Cooperative and Dr. Danny Ervin of ShoreENERGY in 2009.

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