LAS Faculty Service Award

Professor Christopher Baker teaching a class

The LAS Faculty Service award recognizes exceptional service to the College.  Recipients will have made extraordinary contributions to LAS via direct involvement with College committees and initiatives and through service to their Departments, professions, and the community that bring benefit to and further the mission of the College.  Awards carry a one-time $5,000 research budget. Up to two awards will be given each year.



Nominees can be tenured or non-tenure track (Clinical, Research, lecturers) faculty who hold a minimum 50% appointment in a department of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Nomination Process:


Any LAS faculty or staff member may nominate a candidate for the Faculty Service Award.  Nominations remain active for two years, so a nominee who does not receive the award in the year he or she is nominated will be automatically reconsidered the following year.

Nominations are due by April 3, 2020 and can be submitted via email to Beth Allen.

Nomination packets should include:

  1. A letter of no longer than three pages written by the nominee, outlining his or her service contributions of the nominee and describing their significance
  2. A current copy of the nominee’s CV
  3. A letter of support for the nomination from an LAS faculty or staff member other than the nominee

Selection Process:


Nominations will be reviewed and award recipients chosen by the Dean in consultation with the LAS Executive Committee.



Anna Guevarra (PhD, University of California, San Francisco)

Associate professor of Asian American Studies and director of the Asian American Studies Program, is a sociologist specializing in immigrant and transnational labor, the Filipino diaspora, community engagement, and transnational feminist politics and movement building. Professor Guevarra has served UIC in multiple capacities at the department, college, and university level. Since 2007, she has played a crucial role in building the Asian American Studies program, establishing the Asian American Studies minor, and developing new courses that foster collaborations across different campus units. As Co-PI of the AANAPISI (Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions) grant awarded in 2010, Professor Guevarra is responsible for managing the curricular and co-curricular initiatives funded by the grant, such as the ASAM Expo Grants, ASAM Lecture Series, ASAM Community Engagement Project, and the Faculty-Led Study Abroad Programs in India and Japan. She has also served as the Director of Graduate Studies, a member of the Graduate Program Admissions Committee, and Co-coordinator of the department colloquium in Sociology. At the college and university levels, she is Co-PI of the Social Justice and Human Rights Cluster and a core member of the Diaspora cluster, initiatives designed to diversify the faculty body and support the interdisciplinary culture of UIC. She has also served as Co-Chair of the Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Asian Americans, Co-Chair of the Task Force on Best Strategies to Help Dream Act Students Succeed, and a member of the Provost Diversity Advisory Committee. Additionally, Professor Guevarra is active within the Filipino immigrant communities in Chicago, serving as Advisory Board member of CIRCA-Pintig (a community arts group) and Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment (AFIRE).

Roy Plotnick (PhD, University of Chicago)

Professor of earth and environmental sciences and a paleontologist. At UIC, he has served both as Director of Undergraduate Studies and as Director of Graduate Studies in EaEs, overseeing a complete overhaul of the undergraduate program to better align the curriculum with student interests and faculty research. Recently, he has focused on helping undergraduates to find internships and jobs, for example by creating the newly-established EaES alumni listserv. Professor Plotnick has also continuously worked to update and improve introductory labs and courses, notably creating an exercise on the Earth’s Heat Budget that was selected as an example of “exemplary teaching materials related to Climate and Energy” by the NSF-funded Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN). He has frequently collaborated with colleagues in UIC’s College of Education on NSF-funded projects in the areas of elementary science education and teacher training, including a project that involved EaES graduate students in the Chicago Public Schools. Professor Plotnick is an in-demand speaker within the community and has given numerous presentations at Chicagoland public schools, local amateur paleontology societies, and the Earth Science Club of Northern Illinois. His service to the profession includes recently chairing the ad hoc Committee on Publications for the Paleontological Society, where he spearheaded the Society’s transition from publishing its own journals to hiring a commercial or academic publisher while also adopting an Open Access policy. His work as a researcher is highly regarded and frequently cited. He was appointed a Distinguished Lecturer of The Paleontological Society in 2005-2008 and was elected a Fellow of that Society in 2012. Recently, he was invited to speak at the prestigious 2012 William Smith Meeting of the Geological Society of London. He received a UIC Chancellor’s Discovery Fund Award in 2014.

Aixa Alfonso (PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Professor of biological sciences and is widely recognized for her expertise in the fields of cell biology, developmental biology and neuroscience. Professor Alfonso is committed to the education of future scientists in her laboratory and classroom. During her 17 years at UIC, she has played a very important role both within the department, as well as in the College and university. For nine years, she co-directed the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, which supports active research participation by undergraduate students in neuroscience research and is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). She also served as the Director for Graduate Studies for four years and currently serves as the faculty coordinator of the neuroscience research group. At UIC, Professor Alfonso has served as an Honors College Fellow and as a member of the Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Latinos. For the past two years, she has been an Associate Dean in the Graduate College, where she helps set policies regarding degree requirements, financial aid, and graduate studies reform of UIC. Additionally, Professor Alfonso spent two years in Washington, DC, as a rotator at the National Science Foundation. Being a rotator is a rare opportunity for scientists, engineers, and educators to influence research directions in the U.S., make recommendations about which proposals to fund, and support cutting-edge interdisciplinary research.

Jessica Williams (PhD, University of Pennsylvania)

Professor of linguistics and is considered one of the leading authorities in second language writing and focus on form research, two core areas in the field of Applied Linguistics. During her 26 years at UIC, Professor Williams has been a true asset to the University; the College; the School of Literatures, Cultural Studies and Linguistics; the Department of Linguistics; as well as the professional community of applied linguists. Her vast experience in working with students has helped her to be a productive member on numerous committees, such as the Writing Center Board; the Admissions, Retention and Recruitment Committee; the Honors College Council; and the Language Center Committee. Professor Williams has initiated essential revisions of the MA program in Linguistics at UIC which has made the TESOL program one of the most successful in the country. Besides her work on editorial boards for major journals in Applied Linguistics, she has been the organizer, co-organizer or chair of several major international conferences. The international conference “Form-Meaning Connections in Second Language Acquisition,” in particular, had a major impact on the field. Not only was this one of the first theme-based conferences in Applied Linguistics, but it was also noteworthy for its contribution to interdisciplinary research, bringing together researchers from cognition, linguistics and second language learning. Thanks to Professor Williams’ hard work and vision, she has helped to shape the current successes in second language learning at UIC.

Mary Ashley (PhD, University of California at San Diego)

Professor of biology and an expert in the field of ecological genetics and conservation ecology. An outstanding and highly regarded biologist, she has also dedicated her services to the university and the College through various committees and research projects. In Professor Ashley’s 20 years at UIC, she has been Coordinator of the Ecology and Evolution group within the Department of Biological Sciences, served on 29 graduate student thesis committees, advised 17 minority undergraduate students in her laboratory and provided advising for students conducting research atestablishments such as the Chicago Botanic Garden, the Brookfield Zoo and the Field Museum of Natural History. Professor Ashley has also served on various university and College committees and research projects including a multimillion dollar national Science Foundation IGERT LEAP grant that provided fellowships to 25 graduate students. In addition, Professor Ashley served on the LAS Executive Committee, the All Campus Promotion and Tenure Committee, the Ad Hoc Committee on Tenure-Line Faculty Teaching Assignments, the LAS Academic Priorities Task Force and the Graduate College Diversity Committee. She played a pivotal role in obtaining the ADVANCE WISEST grant from the NSF and served as the first senior faculty mentor for this program.

Nikos Varelas (PhD, University of Rochester)

Professor of physics and an internationally acclaimed expert in the field of precision studies of Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD).   He is a member of the D-Zero experiment at the Tevatron Collider at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and of the CMS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Professor Varelas’s service is far-ranging. Through committees such as the Laboratory Renovation Committee he developed and implemented laboratory renovations central to the educational mission of the College.  He also works with Fermilab and CERN to provide internships and research experience for undergraduate and graduate students.  In the physics department Professor Varelas has served on the Departmental Vision Committee, the Physics Advisory Committee, the Electronics Shop Task force, and as an advisor for the Physics Secondary Education program. At the College level, Professor Varelas is a valued member of the LAS Executive Committee. He also works with Quarknet, a National Science Foundation-funded program designed to introduce high school teachers and students to High Energy Physics research, and is Chair of the Outreach Subcommittee of the Users Executive Committee at Fermilab.