Shelagh Towson congratulates graduateShelagh Towson (right) received the Meritorious Service Award for faculty in arts, humanities, and social sciences on Thursday.

Awards recognize service in Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Three awards for meritorious service and the Kathleen McCrone Teaching Award were presented Thursday at the annual Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences holiday celebration, held virtually again this year.

Honorees included:

  • Shelagh Towson, acting head of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology;
  • political science professor Rebecca Major;
  • psychology professor Kendall Soucie; and
  • Sherri Dutot, secretary to the head of psychology.

Meritorious Service Award Full-Time Staff: Sherri Dutot, secretary to the head, Department of Psychology.

Among Dutot’s many attributes described in the nomination and support letters, “excellent work,” “making positive contributions,” and “works to keep things running smoothly” were common compliments. The head secretary position is a large and complex job. Dutot is responsible for helping to supervise three other secretaries and is a resource for 30+ faculty members in a department with 1,200+ students as well as a large graduate program.

“When Sherri arrived, she was already proficient at the UWinsite Finance system and was able to begin teaching faculty how to submit requests for payment,” says Dennis Jackson, former head of the department. “She ultimately put together a helpful “how to” document that we all now use. Even though she has done this, she still helps us when we get lost in the system.”

Everyone agrees that beyond Dutot’s energy and competence, her most significant contribution is making the Psychology department a more vibrant place to work.

Meritorious Service Award Faculty (early career): Rebecca Major, political science.

Colleagues agree that Dr. Major excels in committee work and works tirelessly to educate and inform colleagues of Indigenous policies of Canada, and that she has had a tremendous impact upon the University of Windsor in terms of Indigenizing and decolonizing.

“She is an energetic hard worker who is passionate about how she can best serve not only our campus community, but also Windsor’s Indigenous community, her own Métis community across the nation, and her political science colleagues and students,” Sandra Muse wrote in her nomination letter.

Major played an integral role in creating the University of Windsor’s first minor in Indigenous Studies, which launched in the fall 2021 semester.

“Dr. Major took the lead in searching what other universities were doing, what courses were being offered under similar programs, and took it upon herself to develop the core first-year course, Intro to Indigenous Studies,” wrote Dr. Muse. “She then worked an overload in the winter of 2021 to teach that course herself.”

The FAHSS Indigenous Working Group continues to work towards adding more curriculum, and Major has created three other related courses which are awaiting approval for this ground-breaking minor. She has also been awarded a SSHRC Insight grant, following an internal grant.

The Indigenous community at large has also benefited from Major’s dedication. She has spoken at several local events which recognized the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, and at a number of Métis-specific events.

Meritorious Service Award Faculty (late career): Shelagh Towson.

As Robert Orr, professor emeritus and former dean, said, “During the nearly four decades I have known Dr. Towson and worked with her at the University I have found her service commitment to the University to be remarkable and consistently focused on student support.”

In her nomination letter, Patti Fritz, acting head of the psychology department, was quite eloquent. “Very few people would be more deserving of this award than Dr. Towson! Throughout her many years at the University, she has served as Head of the Psychology Department (two terms), Head of Communication, Media, and Film (one term), and as Acting Head of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology. Who else on campus would so willingly serve as the Head of three very different and distinct academic units? This alone speaks to Dr. Towson’s strong commitment to both service and to the University of Windsor as a whole.”

Towson is the co-founder of both the disability studies program and the concurrent BA/ECE/BEd program, and has played an integral role in the Behaviour, Cognition, and Neuroscience program. All of these programs are interdisciplinary in nature and joint ventures by two or more academic units or faculties (psychology and social work, psychology and education, and psychology and biology, respectively). Moreover, she has been a strong ally for transfer students, creating countless transfer agreements and degree completion programs.

What Towson is most known for is her unrelenting and highly enthusiastic passion for serving students.

“Dr. Towson is an absolutely outstanding academic advisor! Her impeccable knowledge of all of the various psychology degree programs (close to 30 in number) is amazing. She provides the most detailed academic advice to students and in the most efficient and timely manner,” says Dr. Fritz. “I am always amazed by how quickly Dr. Towson is able to ‘solve’ a conundrum for a student and how far she will go to advocate for a student.”

Towson’s deep respect for and service toward students has been recognized through multiple awards — including University of Windsor Student Association Excellence in Teaching Award and the Teacher of the Year Award from the Organization of Part-time University Students. Her advising and treatment of students is an outstanding legacy. She will leave very large shoes for colleagues to fill.

Kendall Soucie, child clinical psychology, was presented with the Kathleen E. McCrone Teaching Award. She teaches introductory psychology, advanced statistics, social science research methods, child and adolescent development, and the graduate course in qualitative research methods. Students and colleagues commented on Dr. Soucie’s ability to make what is often considered dense and dry subject matter interesting and accessible for her students.

Soucie directs the Health Experiences and Longevity (HEAL) Lab in the psychology department. She oversees two lab co-ordinators, eight graduate students, and 15 undergraduate student researchers.