Genevieve Prescher
Office of the Provost

Four KU faculty members awarded Keeler Intra-University Professorships

Tue, 09/19/2023

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas has announced that four professors have been awarded Keeler Intra-University Professorships, which provide faculty the opportunity to expand their scholarship and foster cross-disciplinary collaboration.

The 2023-24 Keeler Professorship recipients:

  • Shawn Bitters, Department of Visual Art
  • Phillip Drake, Department of English
  • Margaret Kelley, Department of American Studies
  • Crispin Williams, Department of East Asian Languages & Cultures

The Keeler Professorships have supported the professional growth of tenured professors since the early 1980s by allowing relief from departmental duties for a semester.

“The Keeler Family Intra-University Professorship provides KU faculty with the opportunity to collaborate across disciplines and engage in groundbreaking interdisciplinary conversations,” said Amy Mendenhall, vice provost for faculty affairs. “The work pursued by faculty in these professorships strengthens the greater KU academic community by building ties and fostering our collective connections.”

About the recipients

Shawn Bitters

Shawn BittersShawn Bitters, associate professor of visual art, will be actively involved in geological field research this fall to enrich his creative work. Bitters will be working alongside Michael Halford Taylor, a KU professor of geology specializing in mountain formation. In their collaboration, Bitters will be involved with techniques for studying the natural world and different avenues to contribute artistically to the research process. Under Halford's guidance, Bitters will study processes of scientific observation, data collection and analysis in the field. Through this experience, Bitters seeks to inform his work with a scientific perspective.

Bitters joined the KU faculty in 2005.

Bitters said, “Participating in future field research trips will cement the practical aspects of how a field geologist works. Like many artists, I am a kinetic learner. And, as an art professor, kinetic learning is the basis of how we teach. It is necessary to participate repeatedly in the processes before I can successfully adopt and adapt these methods to my research. As I work, I will discover how to utilize them, both practically and metaphorically, to create new art.”

Phillip Drake

Phillip DrakePhillip Drake, associate professor of English, looks forward to a productive fall semester where he plans to enhance the courses he teaches. He intends on immersing himself in economic concepts and models as well as continuing to work on his book “Parasite Economies.” This is part of an effort to enrich his courses with more nuanced theoretical frameworks. In addition to building upon his knowledge to support his Marxism and Cultural Critique course, Drake plans to develop a new course exploring literary representations of value and market forces. He also seeks to promote precise, ethical use of economic ideas in the humanities.

Drake joined the KU faculty in 2015.

Drake said, “I am honored and thrilled to be selected for a Keeler Family Intra-University Professorship. Beyond my plan to better acquaint myself with theories of value and decision-making, I am excited for the opportunity to interact with faculty and students in the economics department.”

Margaret Kelley

Margaret KelleyMargaret Kelley, professor of American studies, will spend the fall semester researching the complex intersections of guns, art and culture in America. With the support of Kate Meyer, Spencer Museum of Art curator, and Emily Casey, assistant professor of American art & culture, Kelley will use material culture theory to analyze the historical and contemporary artistic representations of guns. She plans to establish a learning opportunity at the museum while also furthering scholarship on how guns have been depicted in art over time. By examining the symbolic themes and evolving portrayals of guns in American art, Kelley endeavors to build a deeper understanding of this complex subject.

Kelley joined the KU faculty in 2016.

Kelley said, “I am thrilled to be awarded the Keeler Professorship to study art history and guns in American art in collaboration with the Spencer Museum. I want to better understand the subject of my book in progress, women and guns, through representations of firearms in the American artistic tradition. Since coming to KU, I have been academically inspired and motivated by my experience with the museum's collections, and I am looking forward to the new experiences, knowledge and connections that the fellowship will offer.”

Crispin Williams

Crispin Williams, associate professor of East Asian languages & cultures, looks forward to collaborative opportunities this year with KU's linguistics faculty. Through this partnership, Williams plans to acquire a greater understanding of key linguistic concepts related to his scholarship on early Chinese script and language. With the guidance of linguistics colleagues, he plans to develop an innovative interdisciplinary course open to both EALC and linguistics students. The result of this collaboration will be an asset for Williams to foster supportive learning environments for undergraduate and graduate students engaged in both fields. In turn, this could pave the way for potential interdisciplinary research partnerships and grant applications.

Williams joined the KU faculty in 2005.

Williams said, “I’m greatly looking forward to working with colleagues in the linguistics department on interdisciplinary aspects of my research and teaching. My research focuses on the decipherment of the archaic Chinese script from the first millennium BCE, as found on excavated texts written on various media. Application of several subfields in linguistics, particularly phonology and morphology, is critical in deciphering this ancient script. This allows us to understand these texts, which shed much new light on the formative period of Chinese society and culture.”

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