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Friday January 21st

Professor Joy Kasson recognized for work at UNC

Without Joy Kasson, the University would not have a Ph.D. program in American Studies.

When she arrived at UNC, it was only a curriculum. But now, about 40 years later, her dedication to the department and teaching has enabled her to become the sixth woman ever to win the University’s Thomas Jefferson Award.

She was presented with the award on Friday. For the past 50 years, it has been given annually to one faculty member, nominated by fellow faculty, who best exemplifies the ideals of Thomas Jefferson through teaching, writing and scholarship.

Dramatic arts professor Adam Versenyi was among those who nominated Kasson for the Thomas Jefferson award.

“(Kasson) focuses on the best quality of higher education, community and the University as a place not only for learning in the classroom but also as a community in and of itself,” Versenyi said.

Kasson said that receiving the award is an amazing honor, and she is glad to be recognized by her colleagues for her work as a teacher, a department chairwoman and a member of faculty committees.

“Thomas Jefferson believed in public education across all levels, without regard of financial status,” she said. “(This award) reminds us of our mission toward public education here at UNC.”

She said she is very proud to be among the roster of distinguished individuals who have won the award in the past 50 years since it was first presented in 1962.

Kasson is also the first Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Scholar at the University. In this role, she will work to bridge the gap between the arts and education through Arts@TheCore.

Through this initiative, Kasson said she hopes to encourage professors to be able to make more use of Carolina Performing Arts.

“The first piece of work that I’m doing is talking to faculty and asking them, do they use the arts in their teaching? What would make it easier for them to do so?” she said.

The project is funded by the five-year, $800,000 Andrew W. Mellon grant. Arts@TheCore was created in June, and leaders will be using this year as a planning year.

Raymond Farrow, director of development and strategic initiatives for Carolina Performing Arts, said Arts@TheCore was designed to create a closer relationship between arts and what happens in the classroom.

He said he hopes the program will encourage students and faculty to think of the arts as a critical part of the educational mission of the University instead of something that is simply “nice to have.”

“Arts@TheCore is an initiative that basically targets faculty to work with us on an ongoing basis, giving them the opportunity to actually curate some of our programs,” Farrow said.

Farrow said Kasson’s role in the project this year is to carefully think through and plan how the program will be achieved.

“The thing we are most excited about is that Joy has such a splendid reputation among her faculty colleagues, and the fact that she won the Jefferson I think is an indication of the esteem that she is held in,” he said.

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