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Winner of the CARA Award for Excellence in Teaching

This year CARA is again very pleased to recognize two scholars for excellence in teaching.

Elizabeth Sears is the George H. Forsyth Jr. Collegiate Professor of the History of Art and Chair of the Department of History of Art at the University of Michigan. Over her three decades of teaching at Princeton University (1982-1989), Universität Hamburg (1991-1992) and the University of Michigan (1992-present) she has inspired and mentored undergraduate and graduate students in courses ranging from “The Medieval Book,” and “The Gothic Age” to “Medieval Image Theory” and “Aby Warburg and His Legacy,” all the while serving on numerous teaching and administrative committees. In her scholarly work she has opened art history and the study of images for students of all levels, as exemplified in her edited collection, Reading Medieval Images published in 2002, which combines concise discussions of methodology with in-depth case studies. Her teaching is inspired and seeks to explore the “rich ambiguity of medieval artifacts and texts of all kinds.” For this she also won the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts’s Excellence in Teaching Award. As her students made clear, Professor Sears is a teacher and mentor who “fosters the individual.” She has spent countless hours helping students “rethink, reorganize, or revise dissertations, working through the mechanics of writing, structure, argument; pressing for clarity and precision of thought. And she remains a supportive presence long after graduation. She has also been instrumental in shaping pedagogy and the field more broadly. In addition to serving as the editor of Gesta, she served as the publications chair for the International Center of Medieval Art (ICMA) and has established the book series, Viewpoints. --- “Wise, measured, insightful, and dedicated, Professor Sears is a model for how to conduct ourselves in the field” and is richly deserving of this award.  

The CARA Committee is also delighted to recognize Sonja Drimmer, Assistant Professor in the Department of Art History at the University of Massachusetts for her outstanding role teaching, mentoring, and inspiring undergraduate and graduate students. During her short time at UMass, Drimmer has created profound collaborations that have drawn together her colleagues at UMass as well as at Amherst, Smith, Mount Holyoke, and Hampshire Colleges, creating a vibrant medieval studies network. She has coordinated the Five-College Art History Seminar, as well as high profile campus events, and given talks across the campuses. She has expanded conversations about medieval studies in publications in The Atlantic and the Washington Post as well as social media, giving voice to the role of the medieval in the broader world. In the classroom, she is a brilliant and provocative teacher, often beginning lectures with a question or an object for discussion, provoking students to ask questions in turn.  Her teaching pushes students to “piece together for themselves” how churches were used or how different iconographies reshape a message or meaning. She has taught classes that range from general introductions to graduate seminars and her teaching, her colleagues made clear, is “gifted and inspiring.” She succeeds in fostering a rigorous intellectual environment while making difficult texts comprehensible, especially in the Graduate Methods Course. Students admiringly coined the term “Drimmergrams” for her lucid diagramming of theoretical positions. Quite simply, students in her classes have been “spellbound by her creativity.” In addition to her brilliant teaching, Professor Drimmer has developed a significant manuscript collection that her colleagues note “she has built seemingly out of thin air”. In collaboration with the librarians and archivists at Special Collections and the University Archives, she has assembled manuscripts and manuscript reproductions for faculty use with students in courses on early book history, medieval and late antique manuscripts, and textual transmission. She has created a “top-notch teaching collection” which makes possible a new kind of teaching at UMass. Bringing to bear her “capacious and elastic mind,” Professor Drimmer has fostered a form of teaching that is collaborative, generous, and exhilarating. This award recognizes that achievement. 

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