Every year at Commencement, Wesleyan recognizes three outstanding teachers with Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching. These prizes, made possible by gifts from the family of the late Frank G. Binswanger Sr., Hon. ’85, 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.
This year, during the 187th Commencement ceremony, Wesleyan honored the following faculty members for their excellence in teaching:
Erika Franklin Fowler
Erika Franklin Fowler, associate professor of government and director of the Wesleyan Media Project, has taught at Wesleyan since 2009. She has a BA in political science and mathematics from St. Olaf College, and an MA and PhD in political science from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She served as a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of Michigan School of Public Health from 2007 to 2009. At Wesleyan, she teaches courses in American politics, media and politics, campaign advertising, public opinion, and empirical methods. Her courses typically feature modules in which students conduct semester-long research projects that often extend beyond the classroom to publications, conference presentations, and occasionally grant proposals. As director of the Wesleyan Media Project, Fowler and a team of scholars track and analyze campaign advertising on television and social media in real time during elections, providing critical information and transparency for scholars, citizens, and journalists. Fowler’s research also explores health policy and media topics. She is the coauthor of a book, Political Advertising in the United States (2016), and her work has received funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Russell Sage Foundation, among others.
Brian Northrop, associate professor of chemistry, has been a member of Wesleyan’s faculty since 2009. He earned a BA in chemistry with honors from Middlebury College, and went on to earn a PhD in chemistry and biochemistry from the University of California–Los Angeles. Northrop later conducted research in the University of Utah’s Department of Chemistry as an NIH Postdoctoral Fellow. At Wesleyan, he teaches courses in general and organic chemistry, as well as in materials chemistry, nanoscience, and mechanistic physical organic chemistry. Northrop leads a research group focused on developing new and efficient methods for synthesizing complex organic materials from relatively simple starting materials, with potential uses across nanoscience, including functional polymers, molecular sensors, liquid crystals, and drug delivery. Northrop is the recipient of an American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund (ACS PRF) New Doctoral Investigator Award (2010–12), a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award (2014–19), and a Thieme Chemistry Journals Award (2015).
Joseph Siry, the William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of the Humanities and professor of art history, joined the Wesleyan faculty in 1984. He received a BA in history from Princeton University, a Master of Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania, and a PhD in history, theory, and criticism of architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. An expert in modern architectural history, Siry is the author of several books, including The Chicago Auditorium Building: Adler and Sullivan’s Architecture and the City (Chicago, 2002), which won the 2003 Society of Architectural Historians’ Alice Davis Hitchcock Award for best book by a North American scholar, and most recently Beth Sholom Synagogue: Frank Lloyd Wright and Modern Religious Architecture (Chicago, 2012), a finalist for a 2013 National Jewish Book Award, Visual Arts category. His current book project, Air-Conditioning and Modern American Architecture, 1890–1970: From Adler and Sullivan to Louis Kahn, is forthcoming from the Pennsylvania State University Press. At Wesleyan, he teaches courses on American and European architecture, contemporary world architecture, and modern architecture and energy. Siry was previously awarded the Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 1994. In 2018, he was an inaugural winner of the Wesleyan Prize for Faculty Excellence in Research. He was also honored with the 2015 Wright Spirit Award, Professional Category, from the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy in recognition of his scholarship on Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture.
View previous Binswanger recipients online here.