Every spring, Wesleyan recognizes outstanding faculty with three Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching.
This year’s recipients include Gloster Aaron, associate professor of biology, Robyn Autry, associate professor and chair of sociology, and Keiji Shinohara, artist-in-residence.
Made possible by gifts from the family of the late Frank G. Binswanger Sr., Hon. ’85, these prizes underscore Wesleyan’s commitment to its scholar-teachers, who are responsible for the University’s distinctive approach to liberal arts education.
Recommendations are solicited from alumni of the last 10 graduating classes, as well as current juniors, seniors, and graduate students. Recipients are chosen by a selection committee of faculty and members of the Alumni Association Executive Committee.
The Binswanger awards will be presented in person on a future occasion. The recipients and their bios are below:
Gloster Aaron, associate professor of biology, joined the Wesleyan faculty in January 2006. He holds a BA in Neuroscience from Oberlin College and a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Pennsylvania. Aaron’s lab pursues research projects related to the understanding, prevention, and treatment of epilepsy, using optical and electrophysiological methods of measuring neuronal activity. His research has included testing whether stem cell-derived, GABAergic neurons that are transplanted into adult brains can functionally integrate into hippocampal circuits and provide seizure-preventing inhibition. In related projects, he is also studying how newly-born neurons develop and are incorporated in adult brain circuits. With regards to epilepsy, he studies the dynamics of seizures that are functionally connected by the corpus callosum, the main white matter tract connecting the two cerebral cortices of the brain. This project seeks to explain the role GABAergic inhibition plays in the propagation of these seizures between hemispheres.
At Wesleyan, Aaron teaches courses in Behavioral Neurobiology; Waves, Brains, and Music; and Neurophysiology, among others. He is the director of WesMaSS, an academic program designed to support students from traditionally underrepresented groups as they pursue studies in mathematics and science.
Robyn Autry, associate professor and chair of sociology, has been a member of Wesleyan’s faculty since 2010. She is a writer and critical sociologist with broad interests in racial identity, memory, and blackness. Her academic writing on commemorative practices around racial violence in the United States and South Africa has appeared in several journals, including Visual Studies and Theory & Society. Her public writing has appeared in The Atlantic and Black Perspectives. She is the author of Desegregating the Past: The Public Life of Memory in the United States and South Africa (2017). Her second book, Selfishly Black, is currently under review.
She is the recipient of the Andrew W. Mellon Public Humanities Fellowship at the University of Toronto for the 2020–21 academic year. At Wesleyan, she teaches a range of courses including Social Analysis; Race, Fantasy, Fetish; and The Hair Class.
Keiji Shinohara, artist-in-residence, has taught at Wesleyan since 1995. Born and raised in Osaka, Japan, he studied as an apprentice to the renowned Keiichiro Uesugi in Kyoto for a decade before becoming a Master Printmaker. Shinohara’s natural abstractions are printed on rice paper with water-based inks from woodblocks in the Ukiyo-e style.
Shinohara has been a visiting artist at over 100 venues, and has received grants from the Japan Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. His work is featured in many public collections, including the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University, and the Library of Congress. He has given lectures at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian Institution, among others. At Wesleyan, he teaches courses including Intro to Sumi-e Painting, Monotype Printmaking, and Alternative Printmaking: Beginning Japanese Woodblock Technique.