2020 Best of the Best Awards
Trinity Faculty Awarded for Going Above and Beyond
Ten professors named best of the best in education

Trinity’s “Best of the Best” initiative recognizes faculty members for their exceptional contributions to Trinity’s core institutional mission—teaching, scholarship or creative work, and service. This special recognition is reserved for ten individuals who vastly exceeded the high standards expected by their department and the University this year.
The recognition comes with a one-time salary supplement of $10,000 for each selected faculty member, made possible by a generous gift from an anonymous donor. As part of this award, the University will recognize ten more scholars for the final time next year. To be eligible for consideration, faculty members must hold the rank of associate or full professor. They may not receive a distinguished achievement award and a one-time salary supplement in the same year.

 "While it is always a challenge to select only ten faculty colleagues for the distinguished ‘Best of the Best’ honor, this year's recipients proved themselves worthy of the distinction through their exceptional accomplishments during the 2019 year,” says Deneese L. Jones, Ph.D., Trinity’s vice president for Academic Affairs. “I am awed by individuals who proved themselves to be productive scholars, dedicated and innovative teachers, and good citizens of the campus, their academic disciplines, and broader communities. It is easy to be impressed by the sheer quantity of their collective achievements, but on a deeper level, I have admiration for the way that these individuals have made substantive achievements by placing their work in the most selective scholarly venues, achieving lasting impact through their volunteer and service efforts, and expressing a deep commitment to students as teachers and advisors. By celebrating these ten faculty members, we celebrate the best of Trinity!"

Meet and congratulate the 2020 recipients of the award:

Angela Breidenstein ’91, M’92 | Education

Angela Breidenstein

Breidenstein serves as secondary coordinator of Trinity’s Masters of Arts in Teaching program. Students praise her for integrating professional learning opportunities and preparing them for successful teaching careers with her passion, enthusiasm, and depth of knowledge. Breidenstein’s work addresses real problems that teachers and school leaders face in daily practice; in 2019, she published the co-authored book An Uncommon Theory of School Change, served as project manager on two grants from City Educational Partners, and oversaw the Raising Texas Teachers Initiative in conjunction with the Charles Butt Scholars Program. In addition to serving as a board member of the national professional organization School Reform Initiative and supporting improvements for Trinity’s professional development schools in multiple districts, Breidenstein’s service record was further distinguished by her work co-chairing Trinity’s 150th Anniversary Steering Committee.

Jane Childers | Psychology

portrait of jane childers

Childers reimagined “Language Development” as a lower-division course to better serve the department’s needs and to expand Pathways offerings. During the past academic year, she supervised more than 20 students in her lab researching verb learning. Last year, she published three peer-reviewed journal articles–two with undergraduate co-authors–and a book chapter and was the editor for a new book, Language and Concept Acquisition from Infancy through Childhood (Springer). Last summer, she supervised two Arts, Letters, and Enterprise (ALE) interns with a local nonprofit (Connections) that provides free or low-cost counseling, substance abuse prevention programs, and runs three shelters for youth. Childers directs Trinity’s linguistics minor, chairs the Department of Psychology, and was an ALE Faculty Fellow and a member of the Sustainability and IRB committees. In addition, she was an editorial board member for two journals in her field and an executive board member for Connections Individual and Family Services.

David Crockett | Political Science

David Crockett

Crockett’s work advances many of the University’s key operations. He helped create an interdisciplinary cluster, completed a term on the University Curriculum Council, served on multiple university committees, and sponsored four student
organizations. Crockett teaches courses in American politics, including “The American Presidency” and “Campaigns and Elections.” Students praise him for clarity as a lecturer and for creating spaces for respectful dialogue and debate. Last year, he taught in and served as the coordinator of the Science Fiction First-Year Experience. He also advised 30 students while supervising six internships and a student in the McNair/Mellon programs. Crockett made progress on a book project analyzing the impact of opposition presidents on governing party politics, publishing one of his chapters as an article in the journal Presidential Studies Quarterly, all the while serving as the chair of the Department of Political Science.

Patrick Keating | Communication

Patrick Keating

Students appreciate Keating for his wide range of film knowledge, practical feedback on both creative and research projects, and well-organized lectures. In 2019, he published the book The Dynamic Frame: Camera Movement in Classical Hollywood, the culmination of a major multi-year research effort. He also published two book chapters and three peer-reviewed video essays, gave several talks, received contracts for two forthcoming books from academic presses, and received a Public Humanities Fellowship from Trinity’s Humanities Collective. Keating made service contributions directing the film studies minor, chairing the Advising and Registration Committee, serving as an external reviewer for two tenure cases, reviewing three monographs for academic presses, and reviewing three video essays for [in]Transition.

Mark Lewis ’96 | Computer Science

Mark Lewis

Lewis teaches courses ranging from introductory coding and upper-level courses in web application design to physical education courses like roller skating. In 2019, he revised his courses and advised more than 20 students each semester. Lewis is an active Trinity citizen, serving on the University Curriculum Council, the Advising and Registration Committee, and the United Way Committee. He published papers in the proceedings for three national meetings and served as the Co-PI for a grant from NASA. Lewis continued his collaboration with the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, with his simulation data allowing for new visualizations of Saturn’s rings in a current exhibit. He has more than 13,000 subscribers on YouTube and has produced hundreds of computer science video tutorials to accompany his CS textbooks.

Nicole Marafioti | History

Nicole Marafioti

Marafioti had a highly productive year that included the publication of four significant pieces of scholarship and the submission of a fifth, including published articles in Speculum (the top American journal in the field of medieval studies) and Traditio. Marafioti is a conscientious teacher, tailoring her lesson plans to reflect the abilities, interests, and needs of the students enrolled in her courses each term. She received a grant from Trinity’s Collaborative for Learning and Teaching to “challenge traditional narratives of conquest and settlement” in a redesigned course, by promoting the voices of female scholars and underrepresented historical figures. Marafioti co-directed the Medieval and Renaissance studies minor and interdisciplinary cluster, participated in the creation of the new historical perspectives capacity, mentored early-career faculty, organized two visiting lectures, served as a peer reviewer for journal articles and fellowship applications, and gave presentations at two conferences.

Maria Paganelli Economics

Maria Pagenelli

Paganelli taught two new courses this year, including “Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations” and “Economics of Migration” as a visiting faculty member at the University of Palermo. Her teaching achievements were matched in scholarly output, including an invited article, three refereed journal articles, and contributions to the well-regarded journals History of European Ideas and the Cambridge Journal of Economics. She gave 17 presentations in the U.S., Brazil, France, Guatemala, Italy, Iceland, and Scotland. She submitted four papers and refereed 14 articles for publication. In 2020, she will be researching at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and teaching at the Universidad del Desarrollo in Santiago, Chile. Paganelli served on the Faculty Senate while contributing as a book review editor, an editorial board member for two journals, and as president and board member of the International Adam Smith Society. 

Amy Stone | Sociology and Anthropology

Amy Stone

Stone had a productive research year that included the publication, submission, or
acceptance of eight refereed contributions, including articles in Social Forces, the Journal of Psychiatry Research, Sociological Inquiry, and the Journal of Lesbian Studies. Despite being on leave, Stone taught a module on gender for the Japan Summer Abroad Program, receiving glowing praise for creating an inclusive classroom environment. They served as the faculty leader for the Trinity transgender student support group, co-director of the women and gender studies minor, a member of the Promotion and Tenure Commission, and deputy editor of the journal Gender & Society. Stone made contributions to the community as an advisory board member for the Thrive Youth Shelter, an adviser to the TransForward board, and co-director of Strengthening Colors of Pride, an interdisciplinary research team funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Rita E. Urquijo-Ruiz | Modern Languages and Literatures

Rita Urquijo-Ruiz

Urquijo-Ruiz contributed multiple sections of “Advanced Grammar” and a special topics course on the Chicano/a short story and also co-taught “Latinx Leadership Development” as a course overload, a new course to strengthen students’ capacities to lead while promoting community-building. This year she published an encyclopedia entry, had one edited collection accepted, and another edited collection–Cinelatinidades: Latinx Feminist and Queer Film–submitted for publication, with contributions from Trinity faculty and undergraduate researchers. She is active on campus and in her profession and community; she was a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, organized events for the Mexico, the Americas, and Spain program, and reviewed scholarly submissions for multiple journals and presses. Urquijo-Ruiz serves as the inaugural director for Trinity’s newest interdisciplinary major, global Latinx studies.

Liz Ward | Art and Art History

Liz Ward

Ward taught six courses last year within the art and First-Year Experience departments. Students recognize her positivity and ability to make the studio an “inviting space.” This year, Ward had a ’s work was featured in organized the solo show “Floating Life: Mississippi River Drawings” at the Tyler Museum of Art, featuring 30 artworks completed between 2013 and 2019 with an artist’s talk at the Museum to accompany the exhibition. She organized a second installation of  “Floating Life” at San Antonio College, and gave a public lecture. Her work appeared in a group exhibition at the Moody Gallery in Houston and was added to two public collections. She received a grant from the Isle Royale National Park Artist in Residence Program in Michigan and has begun work on a new series based on the cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula. Ward served as a member of the University’s Sustainability Committee and as a member of the Environmental Studies Faculty Advisory Committee, and she organized two visiting artist lectures.

Sydney Rhodes '23 helped tell Trinity's story as a writing intern for Strategic Communications and Marketing.

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