"Please adopt us, Alison!"
The 2011 Gibbel Award
by Amy Hunt
Any history student who has had an Alison class (or three) probably knows about the Facebook group, “Please adopt us, Alison!”
"Let's face it," the page says. "Your mom probably isn't nearly as cool as Alison Fletcher. Actually, on the grand scheme of things, Alison is so totally awesome that your mom wouldn't be able to come close, even if she tried. This group is for the kids who wish that Alison was their mom.”
It makes sense, then, that the History department and a number of students saw fit to nominate Alison for the Gibbel Award For Teaching Excellence, awarded to faculty members with fewer than six years of service at the college. According to the Provost’s website, “the committee grants the award to a tenure-track faculty member who has taught at Juniata College for six years or fewer. The award is presented to an exemplary faculty member who excels in teaching and scholarship and who has made a notable contribution to the academic program.” The award focuses on teaching excellence, but also looks at the professor’s contribution to the academic program and active engagement in scholarship. All of the students and faculty members who contributed to her nomination agreed that she exemplifies what the award represents.
It’s hard to believe that Alison has only been at Juniata since 2007. Not only is she a staple of the history department, but students from other fields flock to her classes as well. As Jennifer “Moose” Snyder, creator of the Facebook page, puts it, “In her classes, Alison combines may elements to keep us engaged and interested. We watch historically based movies, analyze sources, read novels, and even assume the roles of historical figures to add to our understanding the importance of these people and events. All of this feeds our desire to be involved in the class and put our best work forward.” Alison challenges her students in new ways, but also pushes them to realize their own potential and to set raise their own expectations for themselves. Alison’s enthusiasm for the material is infectious, and it’s hard for students to not become passionate about their readings and research as well.
She has also done an amazing amount for Juniata while she has been here. She has inspired the students who have implemented Genocide Awareness and Action Week, and constantly encourages students to study abroad (especially to places they would never have considered before). She is also one of the professors involved in starting a secondary emphasis in Women and Gender Studies, and introduced courses in African history to the department.
Alison is also an extensive traveler, and the Facebook page says it best: “Haven't you always wanted a mom who's worldly? Alison's been a nurse, she's taught at Kent State, she's traveled the globe, and rumour has it that she once rode a whale across the Gulf of Mexico. Knowing Alison, we wouldn't put it past her.” In the past four years, she has traveled to Ireland, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, The Gambia and Rwanda—just to name a few. Every time she travels, she brings back new books and new ideas for her classes, constantly rethinking each syllabus as she encounters new information.
The official nomination ends by stating, “She brings energy, knowledge, commitment, and enthusiasm to the classroom. Alison’s classrooms are interactive, with skilled management of student discussion, innovative use of images to contextualize historical moments, and readings that enable students to reach deep understandings of thought-provoking topics.” Any member of the Facebook group would agree, and we hope that she realizes what an integral part of the history department she is.