Anthropology’s Eileen Anderson-Fye wins back-to-back university awards

Eileen Anderson-Fye
President Barbara R. Snyder surprised Eileen Anderson-Fye during a class and presented her with an apple for her excellent teaching.

Anthropology’s Eileen Anderson-Fye started the academic year by giving the first-ever faculty address to the incoming undergraduate class.

She finished it by becoming the only person in university history to win its top award for undergraduate teaching 12 months after claiming the campus prize for graduate mentoring. Less than a week later, the assistant professor of anthropology learned she also won the 2013 Jessica Melton Perry Award for Distinguished Teaching in Disciplinary and Professional Writing.

“Her enthusiasm is contagious,” President Barbara R. Snyder said during a surprise visit to Anderson-Fye’s class to announce she had won the university’s Carl F. Wittke Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. “Her students describe her as ‘brilliant in the field’ and ‘consistently amazing’ as a professor.”

Anderson-Fye quickly turned the attention of the president and Provost William A. “Bud” Baeslack to the young people gathered in Clark Hall 205. Using research that she and her students gathered last summer, those enrolled learned about research methods and analysis and developed academic articles to be submitted this summer.

“Literally every person contributed original data analysis, write-up, [and] theory to hit the highest standards of our field,” Anderson-Fye explained. “They should be congratulated. They are what make teaching so rewarding.”

Last summer’s research became possible with the support of from the Center for International Affairs and the College of Arts and Sciences as well as a grant from the National Science Foundation. Graduate and undergraduate students traveled to Belize, Jamaica and Nepal to study attitudes about body weight and related stigmas. The initial funding has yielded additional returns—two more undergraduates she mentored won federal funding to extend the research to Mexico and Korea this summer.

“In my advanced research class I want to challenge and scaffold these students to bring out their best efforts,” Anderson-Fye said. As for her popular introductory medical anthropology course, she added, “I believe there are fundamental skills of being a global citizen every student can learn.”

Anderson-Fye joined Case Western Reserve six years ago, after completing postdoctoral work at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she still holds a position as an assistant research anthropologist in the Department of Psychiatry. Her research focuses on the well-being of young people in times of significant personal and cultural change. She has performed longitudinal examinations of the effects of globalization on schoolgirls and their society in Belize, as well as studies of college students’ use of psychiatric medications. This longstanding academic interest in human development also translates to particular effectiveness in teaching and mentoring undergraduates.

As one of her nominators wrote: “Dr. Anderson-Fye definitely shows a personal interest in getting to know each and every one of us and making sure we are doing well in our lives. She always asks how I am when she sees me and stops to talk when I see her outside of class. I feel very comfortable making an appointment to talk to her during office hours about anything because I know she will be interested and give me thoughtful and good advice.”

The Wittke Award, established in 1971, honors Carl Wittke, a former faculty member, dean and vice president of Western Reserve University. Each year, two Case Western Reserve University faculty members receive the award for their excellence in undergraduate teaching. She shares the honor with engineering’s Paul Barnhart.