CLAS faculty receive prestigious honors to further research and creative projects

From the Guggenheim to the Fulbright and more, faculty in our college are receiving national recognition for their outstanding work. Learn more about each recipient and recognition.
Monday, May 13, 2024

Faculty in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences are receiving national recognition for their innovative research and creative projects through various distinguished honors. 

Kaveh Akbar of the Department of English and Jamel Brinkley of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop were among those selected for the 2024 Guggenheim Fellowship, while Writers’ Workshop director Lan Samantha Chang is one of eight individuals who received an Arts and Letters Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Chang was also named a 2024 MacDowell Fellow. 

Bob McMurray of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 

Loyce Arthur of the Department of Theatre Arts and Carolyn Hartley of the School of Social Work were selected as Fulbright Scholars for the 2024-25 academic year. 

Akbar and Brinkley receive prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship 

Kaveh Akbar
Kaveh Akbar

Two CLAS faculty are among those selected for the 2024 Guggenheim Fellowship

Kaveh Akbar, associate professor and director of the undergraduate English and creative writing major, and Jamel Brinkley, assistant professor in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, are among the 188 recipients across 52 disciplines. This year’s fellows were selected from a pool of nearly 3,000 applicants. 

Brinkley’s fellowship is under the fiction discipline, and Akbar’s is in the poetry discipline. The fellowship provides six to 12 months’ funding for artists, scholars, and writers to pursue creative projects. 

Jamel Brinkley
Jamel Brinkley

Akbar expressed how grateful he is for the creative freedom from the fellowship and already has a few projects in motion. Brinkley added how it’s an honor to be named a fellow, and he plans to work on a novel and new short stories. 

“There’s nowhere in America with a greater density of literary talent than in Iowa City,” Akbar said. “There’s nowhere in America with a greater density of literary programming. It’s like Narnia for writers.” 

Chang receives award from American Academy of Arts and Letters and is named 2024 MacDowell Fellow 

Lan Samantha Chang
Lan Samantha Chang

Iowa Writers’ Workshop Director Lan Samantha Chang is one of eight individuals who received an Arts and Letters Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Chang will receive $10,000 to honor and encourage her creative work. 

“For me, it’s a tremendous honor to be granted one of those prizes, because it’s a sign of confidence from the American writing establishment,” Chang says.  

“I spend a lot of my job trying to encourage people’s creative work, and there’s something kind of wonderful being on the receiving end of encouragement at this point. I feel lucky at this time in my life to have that encouragement to produce more work.” 

Chang was also named a 2024 MacDowell Fellow. She is among 155 artists selected from a pool of 2,417 applications for the spring-summer 2024 fellowship. Fellows will have residencies at the MacDowell campus in Peterborough, New Hampshire, where they will have time and space to create in more than 30 artists’ studios. 

“I can say I’ve always done a lot of strong work at MacDowell,” Chang said. “They make it possible for people to focus in a way that is unusual, even for a residency.” 

McMurray named American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) fellow 

Bob McMurray
Bob McMurray

Bob McMurray, F. Wendell Miller Professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, was named a 2023 fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). 

The AAAS is the world’s largest general-scientific society and publisher of the journal Science. McMurray is one of four University of Iowa faculty members named to the fellow class. 

“The AAAS fellowship is one of the most prestigious forms of recognition in the academic community,” McMurray said. “I see dozens of names of scientists and scholars on this year’s list that I've admired since I was an undergraduate. It is humbling to be included among them and to be recognized by my peers in the field for the work we are doing.” 

McMurray was elected for “distinguished contributions to the psycholinguistics of speech perception, spoken word recognition, and reading, including the development of these abilities across the lifespan and in typical and atypical populations.” 

For the past decade, McMurray has been at the forefront of applying the tools and theories of cognitive science to understand word recognition and language processing in different types of people. His lab has current studies tracking how children recognize and learn words, and how word recognition changes as people age. His team also has partnered with researchers in UI Health Care. 

Arthur and Hartley named Fulbright Scholars 

Two CLAS faculty were selected as Fulbright Scholars for the 2024-25 academic year. 

Loyce Arthur
Loyce Arthur

Loyce Arthur, associate professor of design in the UI Department of Theatre Arts, and Carolyn Hartley, associate professor in the School of Social Work, are among 800 U.S. citizens who will conduct research or teach abroad. 

Fulbright scholars engage in cutting-edge research and expand their professional networks, often continuing research collaborations started abroad and laying the groundwork for forging future partnerships between institutions. 

Arthur’s fellowship will be carried out in spring 2025 at the Indonesian Institute of Arts Denpasar in Bali, where she’ll teach costume design for theatre and study Balinese performance costumes.  

“After a few short research and pleasure trips to Bali, I look forward to this longer-term opportunity to collaborate with students and faculty, to meet as many artisans as possible who create these works of art, and to assist Balinese scholars to bring knowledge of the artistry of these costumes to Western audiences,” Arthur said. 

After her return, Arthur hopes to develop a mask theater piece around the theme of climate change and to bring it to campus in 2025-26.   

Carolyn Hartley
Carolyn Hartley

For her Fulbright project, Hartley will collaborate with state and NGO agencies and University of Prishtina professors in Kosovo, where she’ll conduct a needs assessment to inform training for domestic violence service providers and legal professionals.  

Hartley is motivated by the ways her research will support Kosovo's Ministry of Justice in strengthening capacities to address violence against women as part of their national strategy. 

“Using knowledge gained from my research, I have provided extensive professional training and consultation to victim service providers in the state of Iowa as the academic partner and lead faculty trainer for the Iowa Victim Assistance Academy," Hartley said. "I am excited to bring my experience in conducting needs assessments and designing training curricula to Kosovo.” 

The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers about 70 majors across the humanities; fine, performing and literary arts; natural and mathematical sciences; social and behavioral sciences; and communication disciplines. About 15,000 undergraduate and nearly 2,000 graduate students study each year in the college’s 37 departments, led by faculty at the forefront of teaching and research in their disciplines. The college teaches all Iowa undergraduates through the college's general education program, CLAS CORE. About 80 percent of all Iowa undergraduates begin their academic journey in CLAS. The college confers about 60 percent of the university's bachelor's degrees each academic year.