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3 Eastern faculty receive Board of Regents Faculty Awards

Published on May 05, 2021

3 Eastern faculty receive Board of Regents Faculty Awards

Tom Balcerski 

Thomas Balcerski, associate professor of history at Eastern Connecticut State University, was named the statewide recipient of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) System’s 2020–21 faculty research award at the April 22 meeting of the Board of Regents.

The board also named statewide winners in the teaching category for full-time and part-time faculty, as well as campus-based faculty teaching and research awards for the 17 institutions in the CSCU system, in announcing its annual faculty awards program.

Susan DeRosa, associate professor of English, received Eastern’s campus-based teaching award for full-time faculty, and Brenda Westberry, adjunct professor of sociology, won the campus-based teaching award for part-time faculty.

Balcerski, who received his Ph.D. at Cornell University, is a scholar of early American history, with a focus on the Antebellum period. His teaching interests include African American History, American popular culture, environmental history and U.S. presidential history. His knowledge of U.S. presidents and the political history surrounding them has made Balcerski a popular contributor and guest on CNN, the Washington Post, Smithsonian Magazine, Time, NBC News, C-Span, the BBC and a number of other national and international media outlets.

Balcerski has also published widely. In addition to authoring peer-reviewed articles and other written works, Balcerski recently published “Bosom Friends: The Intimate World of James Buchanan and William Rufus King (Oxford University Press, 2019). “Bosom Friends” considers the personal and political relationship of James Buchanan of Pennsylvania (1791-1868) and William Rufus King of Alabama (1786-1853), and argues that it followed a common pattern of intimate male friendship during the first half of the 19th century. The “Wall Street Journal” declared that the book “enlarges our understanding of the factors that can erode friendships and rupture nations. Rarely has any scholarly treatment of the disintegrating Union felt more urgent.”

In describing her colleague, Barbara Tucker, emeritus professor of history, wrote, “He is a first-rate scholar, an excellent teacher and mentor, an active participant in academic societies, a valuable participant in university affairs, and an actively sought-after commentator on political events.”

More than anything else, Balcerski is proud of what his students learn from him.  He was recently recognized with the 2021 Outstanding Thesis Mentor Award by the Honors Council and Eastern’s Undergraduate Research Creativity Mentor Award for nurturing the intellectual and personal development of students. “Dr. Balcerski helped me develop several critical skills during our time working together on my honors thesis, “Maggie’s Ride: The Life and Legacy of a Civil War Horse,” said Allen Horn IV ’21. “He taught me how to read 19th-century handwriting, take detailed and helpful notes on secondary sources, and effectively use digital history databases. These abilities were ultimately integral to my thesis research. He also taught me networking and public speaking skills, which has greatly enhanced my presentation skills at conferences.”

Susan DeRosa 

Susan DeRosa, associate professor of English, was honored with Eastern’s campus-based teaching award. DeRosa is a rhetoric and writing studies specialist whose most recent research and publication has been on multi-modal writing theories, first-year college writers and writing center pedagogy. She earned her Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Writing Studies at the University of Rhode Island.

In addition to creating three new courses in Eastern’s English major, as well as helping to develop the Creative Writing concentration, DeRosa supports student writers on independent study projects, internships and honors theses. Writing experts regard the textbook she co-authored in 2011, “Choices Writers Make: A Guide” as a rare treat in first-year composition textbooks.

“Choices” is innovative, as English Professor Christopher Torockio notes, “in that it emphasizes the generative nature of genres and acknowledges how writers actually write. They publish their research and their ideas in many different ways for different audiences. What works for one audience or purpose might not work for another…because different audiences need the material presented differently. At the time, no other textbook took this approach.”

“Dr. DeRosa is a brilliant, inspiring teacher, a generous and supportive colleague, and a groundbreaking scholar,” said English Professor Daniel Donaghy. “Her tireless dedication to the Eastern community and her collaborative spirit serve as examples of the very best that Eastern professors can offer their students.”

Brenda Westberry 

Brenda Westberry, adjunct professor in the Sociology program, received the campus-based award for adjunct faculty. While teaching part time at Eastern since 2001, Westberry also has served as an adult probation officer in Connecticut’s Court Support Services Division, an experience she shares with students to provides real-world context in her courses. Westberry earned her bachelor’s degree at Western Connecticut State University and her master’s degree in sociology at Southern Connecticut State University.

Over the years, Westberry has brought her unique perspective to a wide range of courses—Criminal Justice and Society; Violence in Relationships; Victimology and more recently developed, timely courses such as Race, Crime, and Justice; Working with Violent Offenders; Current Controversies in Criminology; and Women and Crime.

Professor Westberry demonstrated her commitment to issues regarding domestic violence when she established the Alyssiah Wiley 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament in October 2019. This annual event focuses on domestic violence, highlighting the life of the late Eastern student Alyssiah Wiley, who was the victim of domestic violence in 2013.

“Professor Westberry exemplifies the very best that the Connecticut State University System has to offer,” said Criminology Professor Theresa Severance. “In her 19 years as a part-time faculty member in our department, she has touched the lives of countless students, many of whom have gone on to successful careers in Connecticut’s criminal and juvenile justice systems.”

Written by Dwight Bachman