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Office of Academic Affairs and Faculty Development Center Award Competitive Grants

The Office of Academic Affairs and the Center for Faculty Development recently awarded two of their highest honors to four St. Thomas faculty members. Dr. Avinash Malshe and Dr. Gerald Schlabach each received the University Scholars Grant; and Dr. Michael Rota and Dr. Amy Levad each received the Distinguished Early Career Grant.

The University Scholars Grant (USG) is awarded to tenured faculty with associate or full professor rank who have completed at least 10 years of full-time service at St Thomas. The grant provides the recipients with release time for scholarly work over a three-year period.

Malshe is an associate professor of marketing in the Opus College of Business. He has taught at St. Thomas since 2005. His primary area of research is in marketing strategy. He plans to use the USG to embark on a new stream of research that investigates the idea of solution co-creation in a business-to-business environment.

"It is quite an honor to be receiving this grant – perhaps the most prestigious scholarly grant given at St. Thomas," Malshe said. "At the same time, I am mindful that the grant comes with the responsibility of being a productive scholar who will be on the cutting edge of his discipline. I am eager to begin working on the research project starting next summer."

Schlabach is a professor of theology in the College of Arts and Sciences. He has taught at St. Thomas since 2000. His primary area of research is Christian social ethics, especially issues of war and peacebuilding. He plans to use the USG to finish a scholarly book on Catholic peace theology.

"St. Thomas prides itself on putting students first as a teaching university, and I have been glad to prioritize that vocation. But our strategic planning also commits the university to 'embrace our role in the global church,'" Schlabach said. "I am grateful for the opportunity that the university’s support, by way of this grant, will afford me to make that wider contribution to the common good."

The Distinguished Early Career Grant (DEC) recognizes and supports early career faculty – those with at least four but no more than 10 years of service – who have a distinguished record of ongoing scholarship. The award provides release time to faculty for advancing their scholarly agenda at a generative moment in their careers.

Rota is an associate professor of philosophy in the College of Arts and Sciences. He has taught at St. Thomas since 2005. His primary area of research is the philosophy of religion. He plans to use the DEC to co-author a book with sociologist Kevin Bales examining how religious individuals, belief and institutions have at different times justified, accommodated and ultimately helped fight against the evil of slavery.

"I am delighted and very grateful to receive this grant. The reduction in teaching responsibilities will allow me to make progress on research which is near to my heart," Rota said. "I first learned about the problem of contemporary slavery while teaching ethics, and every time I’ve discussed the issue with my students, the desire to do something to contribute to current abolitionist efforts has been stirred within me."

Levad is an associate professor of moral theology in the College of Arts and Sciences. She has taught at St. Thomas since 2009. Her primary area of research is the ethics of criminal justice. She plans to use the DEC to work on a book, Justice Rolling Like Waters, that will examine Christian moral responses to the intertwining of mass incarceration and social injustice in the United States.

"This grant enables me to write a book that I hope will be helpful to my community, church and society in the work for social justice and love of neighbor," Levad said. "It signals to me the value of my work to the University of St. Thomas, as an institution driven by a mission to advance the common good, inspired by Catholic intellectual tradition."

According to Dr. Mary Reichardt, internal grants coordinator in the Center for Faculty Development, both awards stress a high level of scholarly productivity: The USG is awarded to established scholars at the top of their field and the DEC to rising stars. Competition is intense as only up to two awards each for the USG and DEC are made per year, she said.

"These awards demonstrate the university's commitment to recognize and reward faculty with distinguished records of scholarship and the promise of more to come," she stated. "I'm deeply impressed by the depth and breadth of scholarly engagement of this year's awardees."

For more information on the University Scholars Grant and the Distinguished Early Career Grant, visit the Center for Faculty Development.