College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities

CAAH honors eight faculty and staff with annual Dean’s Awards


Each year, the College of Architecture Arts and Humanities recognizes faculty and staff who have distinguished themselves through their teaching, service, research through a series of “Dean’s Awards.”

In the 2021-2022 school year, five faculty and three staff members were recognized for their outstanding contributions at the annual College Meeting on May 10. Each winner is awarded with a trophy and a $2,500 prize. Below is a list of the winners, and a glimpse into why their students and co-workers recognized their work.

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching

Brookes Brown

This year’s recipient of the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching is Brookes Brown, Assistant Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy & Religion.

In one nomination letter for Brown, a student wrote: “Dr. Brown is an outstanding professor and so deserving of this award because of her brilliance and teaching style that fosters student development.

“The most impactful teachers aren’t the ones whose students finish their course knowing the material the best, but rather who teach their students to think for themselves and to know who they are a little better; and Dr. Brown does the latter.”

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research

Dina Battisto

The recipient of the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research is Dina Battisto, Associate Professor in the School of Architecture.

Battisto has been instrumental this year in establishing the School of Architecture Health and Wellness Task force. Her work formed a seamless link between her research and her service to students, using data to inform the school’s wellness program.

One of her students wrote: “In addition to being a well-rounded professor, Dina emphasizes compassion to her students that she teaches, holding weekly walks in the Botanical Gardens to encourage healthy habitats as part of her class. . . Her commitment to developing a healthy community extends in all aspects, the Clemson School of Architecture is lucky to have a positive influence like Dina.”

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Service

Ben White

The winner of the Dean’s Award for Excellence in service was Ben White, Associate Professor of Religion in the Department of Philosophy & Religion.

In addition to founding and directing the Religious Studies major, White has taken on the responsibility of chairing his department’s personnel committee. His reputation for taking on many of the thankless tasks necessary to keep a department humming have impressed both his chair and his colleagues, one of whom wrote: “His wide-ranging and outstanding service to the department is – to the best of my knowledge – unparalleled. Most importantly, Ben serves with a passion and generosity that is driven by his selfless commitment to his students, colleagues, and the department.”

Dean’s Outstanding Senior Lecturer Award

John Pursley

The first-ever winner of the Dean’s Outstanding Senior Lecturer Award is John Pursley, Senior Lecturer in the Department of English. 

For the past several years, John has served as the faculty director of the Clemson Literary Festival, including overseeing the festival’s in-person return this Spring. His pedagogy has earned the respect of his colleagues and the admiration of his students, one of whom wrote:

“[He] attracts students in hordes. I don’t think it was a coincidence that my classmates and I consistently showed up early to his class. For [him], relationship building begins the moment he walks through the door.”

Dean’s Outstanding Lecturer Award

Luke Chwala

The winner of the Dean’s Outstanding Lecturer Award is Luke Chwala, Lecturer in the Department of English.

Chwala has made immediate and significant impact on ensuring that LGBTQ+ students have a sense of belonging in the College. He has accomplished this through his service, as a liaison to the Gantt Multicultural Center; through his research, writing highly-regarded articles on queer gothic literature; and through his teaching.

In nominating Dr. Chwala, one of his students wrote: “His communication, enthusiasm, and intellectually challenging course material have helped me to become both a stronger writer and a more considerate person regarding the injustices still faced in society today.”

Dean’s Team Player Award

eMichelle Marchese

The Dean’s Team Player Award recognizes a staff member with a team-building spirit, who–among other qualities–must be highly regarded by co-workers, communicate well, demonstrate willingness to share knowledge with others and be willing to cross boundaries to get the job done.

This year’s recipient of the Dean’s Team Player Award is Michelle Marchese, Administrative Coordinator for Landscape Architecture in the School of Architecture.

One person who nominated this award winner wrote, “Her consistent contributions each day are the ingredients of a collegial, healthy, and joyful workplace. Even when things are difficult, she remains helpful, hopeful, and supportive.”

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Outstanding Customer Service

Sarah Costley

The Dean’s Award for Excellence in Outstanding Customer Service is awarded to a staff member who, among other things, is characterized by a positive attitude, strives for self-improvement, is professional in all situations, takes initiative to learn new methods to better assist the customer, and is willing to put service to others above self.

This year’s award goes to Sarah Costley, Administrative Assistant for the Pearce Center for Professional Communication.

One member of the College who nominated Sarah said, “There are certain staff members on this campus that you know you can count on. There are certain people you know you can work with openly and honestly and you appreciate each other. She is one of those people and we are lucky to have her!”

Dean’s Innovation Award

Keri Crist-Wagner

The Dean’s Innovation Award goes to a staff member in recognition of devising a solution to a problem or coming up with a process that increases efficiency or improves a situation.

This year’s award was presented to Keri Crist-Wagner, Student Services Program Coordinator for the Department of English.

In the nomination for this award winner, her supervisor noted that she met the criteria not based only on a single innovation, but for an ongoing series of common-sense innovations that improve the efficiency of her department. She also uses her experiences as an instructor, a student, and a staff member to strengthen her performance in each role. One of her colleagues wrote, “All of us have much to learn from her about how to successfully integrate these various components of higher education for the betterment of all involved. I have no doubt that her expertise has led to higher rates of retention among historically marginalized student groups on campus.”

About CAAH

Established in 1996, the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities celebrates a unique combination of disciplines—Architecture; Art; City Planning; Construction Science and Management; English; History; Languages; Performing Arts; Philosophy; Religion; Real Estate Development and interdisciplinary studies—that enable Clemson University students to imagine, create and connect. CAAH strives to unite the pursuit of knowledge with practical application of that knowledge to build a better and more beautiful world.

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