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2008 Faculty Excellence Award- Excellence Through Diversity

By Kristin Duisberg
February 25, 2009

Monica E. Chiu
Monica E. Chiu, associate professor of English. Perry Smith, UNH Photo Services.

In Monica Chiu’s first-year inquiry seminar, Ethnic Literature in America, students ask: How does culture affect racism and vice versa? If race is not biological, why do we value it so much? Chiu's honors advisees whittle down even further questions of culture and identity, probing topics from postcolonial influences on South Asian American literature to the intersection of Asian American writing and food culture.

Hired in 1998 as the English department's first specialist in Asian American studies, Chiu has emerged as one of the University's clearest voices in its efforts to increase diversity within the faculty and the student body. Among other achievements, she has created a robust Asian American studies curriculum, served on the UNH Diversity Strategic Planning Task Force, and chaired the University's President's Commission on the Status of People of Color.

Chiu is most proud of founding the Inclusive Teaching Fellows (ITF) program, a faculty seminar that examines ways of making curricula and classrooms more inclusive and welcoming. First offered in fall 2005, participants say it has changed the way they teach, helped them forge stronger relationships across schools and disciplines, and instilled a sense of personal responsibility about inclusiveness on campus.

"Because of this program, I'm aware it is possible to exclude people just by the words I use," says Thomas Pistole, professor of microbiology and faculty director of the Discovery Program. "That level of awareness puts me in a better position to help both students and colleagues in my interactions."

In 2007, the University recognized the ITF program with its Social Justice Award for a Faculty Group. Chiu says the value UNH places on diversity helps to attract and retain minority faculty. Chiu herself has been recognized with a 2008 New Hampshire Women in Higher Education Leadership Emerging Professional Award. Her personal efforts have included working with Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer Wanda Mitchell to establish the Faculty Mentoring and Professional Development program and advising minority junior faculty concerning issues of promotion and tenure. Says Chiu, "I would like to infuse the University with diversity at every level in ways that enrich the classroom and campus for everyone."

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