University of South Carolina

Arts & Sciences faculty garner top fellowships

Three faculty members from the University of South Carolina’s College of Arts and Sciences have been awarded some of academia’s top fellowships.

History professor Dr. Marjorie J. Spruill has been awarded a fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Dr. Ed Carr, an associate professor in geography, has been awarded a Science and Technology Policy Fellowship from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Dr. Laura Dassow Walls, an English professor who holds The John H. Bennett Jr. Chair of Southern Letters, was named a 2010 fellow by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in April.

“These awards represent powerful external validation of the quality of the scholarship of the faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences,” said Dr. Mary Anne Fitzpatrick, dean of the college. “The opportunities afforded by these fellowships will allow these faculty not only to conduct important research but also to bring new approaches into the classroom on their return.”

Spruill will head to Washington, D.C., in September, where she will be in residence at the Wilson center through May to work on her book, “Women’s Rights, Family Values, and the Polarization of American Politics.” There, she will interact with scholars and public officials in Congress and the executive branch of government.

“This book will speak to a broad audience and contribute to the national conversation about this prolonged period of partisanship and polarization that has continued now for 30 years and is confounding efforts of our leaders to address the most important problems facing our society,” Spruill said.

A leading expert on women’s history, Spruill is focusing her research on the transformation of American political culture during the 1970s that led to the highly partisan, deeply polarized political culture of today. This is the third fellowship Spruill has been awarded since joining the university’s faculty in 2004. She was a fellow with the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University from 2006 – 07 and will begin a fellowship with the National Endowment for the Humanities fellow beginning June 2011.

AAAS fellowships are highly competitive, with more than 800 applicants this year. As a fellow, Carr will relocate to Washington and will serve in an influential role with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance. There, he will coordinate and provide guidance on climate change adaptation policy, focusing on poor and vulnerable populations.

“The fellowship is a remarkable opportunity,” Carr said. “USAID is one of the world’s largest and most influential development organizations. Decisions made at USAID will, over the long term, affect the lives of hundreds of millions of people. The chance to influence policy within USAID is something I cannot pass up.”

Carr joined the university’s faculty in 2003 after having earned his doctorate in geography a year earlier from the University of Kentucky. A prolific young scholar, Carr is recognized as a leading international expert on global development, particularly the intersection of development with global economic and environmental change. His fieldwork has focused on Africa, specifically Ghana and Malawi.

The Guggenheim is the most prestigious fellowship awarded in general academic fields. Walls is one of 180 artists, scholars and scientists to be chosen from a field of more than 3,000 applicants. She plans to use her fellowship year to research collections at the university and libraries around the country and begin writing a biography of Henry David Thoreau that introduces him to a new generation and connects him to the 21st century.

“We really live in a different era now, and we bring different questions to Thoreau and see him in new ways,” Walls said. “He continues to be so important, an icon of American culture and a kind of ambassador of American culture abroad.”

Much of Walls’ scholarly work has looked at the relationship between literature and science. She has written three books, including ones on Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Alexander von Humboldt, a pioneer environmentalist in the 18th and 19th centuries. Her 2009 book, “The Passage to Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt and the Shaping of America,” earned a Merle Curti Award from the Organization of American Historians. She received a Russell Research Award for the Humanities and Social Sciences from the university last month.

Arts and Sciences awards

  • Marjorie J. Spruill: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars fellowship
  • Ed Carr: AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship
  • Laura Dassow Walls: John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship

By Office of Media Relations

Posted: 05/26/10 @ 5:30 PM | Updated: 05/28/10 @ 1:35 PM | Permalink