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UCR Announces Distinguished Faculty Awards

UCR Faculty Names its Distinguished Faculty

An economist is named Faculty Research Lecturer, an anthropologist and a biomedical scientist are named distinguished teachers, and a language professor and religious scholar are honored for their service to the campus.

(June 1, 2006)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — — The University of California, Riverside Academic Senate — the campus faculty governing body — announced today its top faculty awards in research, teaching and service for the 2005-2006 academic year.

In research, Professor of Economics R. Robert Russell was selected the faculty research lecturer for 2006, the highest honor that the UCR Academic Senate can bestow on a colleague to recognize the quality of his or her research.

The academic senate’s Distinguished Teaching Awards for 2005-06 went to Anthropology Professor Scott L. Fedick and Biomedical Sciences Professor and Associate Dean Neal L. Schiller. The Distinguished Teaching Award is conferred on the basis of student evaluations and peer reviews.

UCR’s Distinguished Service Awards went to Professor of Religious Studies June E. O’Connor and Associate Professor of French and Italian Theda Shapiro. These awardees were nominated by their colleagues.

All the Awards were ratified by the UCR Academic Senate at its May 30 meeting.

Distinguished Professor of Economics, R. Robert Russell, as the recipient of the Faculty Research Lecturer award, will give a one-hour public lecture in the spring of 2007. Although he has not selected a specific topic, Russell said he most likely would talk about economic science, about microeconomic theory, and whether the poor countries of the world can or cannot close the economic gap with the rich.

The Faculty Research Lecturer Award is bestowed on a faculty member who is considered to have an outstanding and distinguished record in research, and whose work has made an impact on the discipline.

“I’m tremendously honored that the selection committee chose me, among many faculty members across the campus who deserve this award,” Russell said. “The award should be shared with the many colleagues and students who, in ways too numerous to catalog, have contributed to so many of my research endeavors.”

Russell is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has held visiting professorships at Stanford University, Universités d'Aix-Marseille, and visiting Distinguished Scholar at the University of Sydney. He also held the UC President’s chair from 1986 to 1988.

Russell has served as a consultant to a mix of private industry and government including Boeing Aircraft Corp., the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Council of Economic Advisors, Criterion Incorporated, the State of Alaska, the State of Hawaii, Pacific Bell Telephone Co., the Stanford Research Institute, Sperry Univac Corporation, and the Union Pacific Railroad.

Both Scott Fedick and Neal Schiller were lauded by colleagues and students for their commitment to student learning and their willingness to help raise the money to support programs which improve students’ experiences and depth of knowledge.

Fedick’s fund raising efforts, primarily from private sources, have afforded more than 100 undergraduate students experience in archeological research on the ancient Maya in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, while providing numerous graduate students with dissertation and thesis topics. Although most of these students are from UCR, many have come from other U.S. universities as well as numerous foreign countries.

His Yalahau Regional Human Ecology Project examines the interaction between the ancient Maya and their environment, focusing on agricultural practices and the use of natural resources. Fedick’s research has led to partnerships with colleagues in the UCR’s Department of Botany and Plant Sciences and the Center for Conservation Biology, as well as with collaborators from many different disciplines at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and various other institutions in Mexico, enriching the learning environment for students in several disciplines.

Schiller is Associate Dean of the Thomas Haider Program in Biomedical Sciences that offers the first two years of a joint UCR/UCLA medical school program. He has taught medical microbiology and infectious diseases to medical students since 1979. Schiller also works closely with the Biomedical Sciences FastStart Program that gives disadvantaged students an early introduction to university-level work during the summer prior to their freshman year. He raised funds to fully support this program for 24 students for the next three years.

Schiller directs the Medical Scholars Program (MSP), which provides academic support and enrichment for disadvantaged students throughout their college years, offering a competitive edge in applying to post-graduate programs in medicine and the allied health sciences. He was also the co-founder of the Interdepartmental Microbiology Graduate Program, and developed a graduate-level microbiology physiology course which he has taught a number of times.

“I've thoroughly enjoyed working with students at all academic levels,” Schiller said. “It is a privilege to teach these students and I find teaching to be the most personally rewarding part of my job as a faculty member.”

June O’Connor and Theda Shapiro received the faculty senate’s inaugural Distinguished Campus Service Award based on the extensive service they’ve extended to their college, campus and the UC system.

O’Connor, a UCR faculty member since 1973, led the emergence of religious studies at UCR from a program of study to a full-fledged department in 1993. That same year, she was instrumental in obtaining a $150,000 gift from Robert and Loretta Holstein of Riverside to endow the Holstein Family and Community Chair in Religious Studies, the first endowed chair in the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at UCR.

She organized and participated in the “Days of Respect” program following the 1994 assassination attempt on campus of Nation of Islam leader Khalid Mohammed after a talk. O’Connor has also chaired a variety of committees on campus such as the Vision 2010 task force, and search committees for the Assistant Chancellor, the director of the Center for Ideas and Society, director of the University Honors Program, the Vice Chancellor for Administration, and the Rupert Costo Chair. She also represented the campus on the UC systemwide Academic Senate and was a member of the UCR Genomics Institute Steering Committee.

Shapiro, a faculty member since 1969, has twice served as acting chair of the Department of Comparative Literature and Foreign Languages, as director of programs in Italian and French since 1999, and was a driving force behind the UC Consortium for Language Learning and Teaching since its formation six years ago. She was the first director of Liberal Studies and Interdisciplinary Programs in 2000 through 2003, which serves hundreds of students, currently around 500.

Shapiro has also dedicated great efforts toward the success of the campus’ Education Abroad Program, both as a field director in Paris in the 1980s and as associate director for academic affairs for the UC-wide Education Abroad Program in the 1990s. In her systemwide post, Shapiro reviewed and approved more than 3,000 courses per year for UC credit, monitored the quality of individual students’ curricula, was involved in planning for existing and new programs worldwide, and headed the searches for directors.


The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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