Representatives of George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College are two among a dozen educators recognized by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) with its 2023 Outstanding Faculty Award.
Nominees are selected by their institutions, reviewed by a panel of peers and chosen by a committee of leaders from the public and private sectors. SCHEV received 74 nominations this year before the group was narrowed to 24 finalists and the 12 eventual winners.
From Northern Virginia institutions of higher education:
• Alessandra Luchini, a professor in Mason’s Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine (CAPMM) within the College of Science, is the university’s 28th faculty member to be so honored since the award’s inception in 1987, Mason officials said.
“This has been unbelievable,” said Luchini, the director of the Biosciences Ph.D. Program within the School of Systems Biology, “because it is the highest honor in Virginia, and there are so many thousands of faculty with huge impact in their research. It is a complete honor, and I am incredulous.”
Outstanding Faculty Awards recognize faculty at Virginia’s public and private colleges and universities who exemplify the highest standards of teaching, scholarship and service, Mason officials said. The award includes a $7,500 gift from the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation when they are formally recognized at an in-person ceremony in Richmond on March 7.
Mark Ginsberg, Mason’s provost and executive vice president, lauded Luchini for her efforts in a statement from the university.
“Professor Luchini is an exemplary member of the Mason faculty,” Ginsberg said. “I am delighted she has been recognized for her dedication to the education and development of her students and her outstanding and higher consequential research. She exemplifies the Mason spirit and is setting an example for future educators and scientists who will no doubt stand on her shoulders.”
Luchini’s research interests include developing technologies that improve current diagnostics and therapeutics for diseases, including cancer and inflammatory and infectious diseases.
Having earned undergraduate and doctorate degrees at the University of Padova in Italy, Luchini is a co-founder of Ceres Nanosciences, which was created in 2008, and Monet Pharmaceuticals, created in 2019.
Most recently, university officials said, Luchini contributed to the fight against Lyme disease by helping lead a team of CAPMM researchers that was named one of 10 winners of the LymeX Diagnostic Prize by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Foundation.
“Lyme disease is probably what I have been closer to,” Luchini said in a statement from the university. “I interact with doctors who recommend patients for our clinical trials, I interact with patients and I hear their stories and, hopefully, my research allows them to understand a little bit more about what they have and how they can improve their health. It is a good reality check and a good reminder of why we do what we do – which is to help people.”
• Also from the local area, Christine Pegorraro Schull – a member of the early-childhood faculty at Northern Virginia Community College since 2006 and the Alexandria Campus program head in 2016 – received an Outstanding Faculty Award.
“Dr. Schull is a fierce advocate for early childhood education and has served in numerous capacities to advance its role through public discourse,” state education officials said.
Schull is also a lecturer at the University of Maryland’s Family Studies department and chair of the early childhood peer group in the Virginia Community College System. She started her career as a research fellow and an elementary-school teacher in a Spanish-immersion program. Her publications and presentations illuminate the importance that early education and intervention play in childhood formation.
Schull “is not only knowledgeable in her field, but charismatic in the way she educates the whole student,” NVCC officials said. They added that she takes into account that many students will not be earning extensive salaries in the early-childhood-education field, and works to keep textbook costs low for those taking her courses. She also works to prepare students for burnout that often is prevalent in the field, and at the request of the college president worked with other colleges and universities across the program to establish a specialized 31-credit training program.
“I am always conscious that I am teaching people to teach,” Schull said. “It is not simply that I am sharing practices and principles, but that I must demonstrate how to teach through my own course design, curriculum, instruction and interactions.”
A complete list of statewide honorees for 2023 and earlier years can be found at https://www.schev.edu.