Congratulations to the CHSS recipients of the 2024 Presidential Faculty Excellence Awards

George Mason University President Gregory Washington has announced the recipients of the 2024 Presidential Awards for Faculty Excellence, honoring 13 Mason faculty members for their work on behalf of the university, students, and the broader community. Congratulations to the four College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS) faculty—Xiaomei Cai, Rachel Lewis, Lincoln Mullen, and Gabrielle Tayac—who have been selected as award recipients.

Presidential Awards for Faculty Excellence recipients, selected annually, exemplify Mason’s ideals of excellence: teaching innovation, research and scholarship of consequence, diversity, and inclusion, and social impact in our community and around the world. Recipients will be honored at a ceremony on May 7.

Dean Ann Ardis shared her congratulations with the award recipients. “I commend each of these outstanding members of our faculty for their commitment to excellence in teaching, research, and service,” she said. “This award represents the university’s highest recognition of faculty achievement and is a testament to their extraordinary contributions, which have made a significant impact on the Mason community and beyond.” 

The College congratulates its 2024 honorees: 

Faculty Excellence in Teaching

Rachel Lewis is an instructional associate professor in Women and Gender Studies and director of undergraduate and graduate programs. She joined the faculty in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences in 2012.

Lewis has taken an outsized role in curricular development for the Women and Gender Studies Program and has designed and taught 17 different courses over the past 10 years. Given the small number of program faculty members, her initiative has been crucial to the program’s ability to offer a wide array of courses. Lewis’s courses are interdisciplinary and transnational in scope, focusing on issues relating to sexuality, race, immigration, human and animal rights, ecology, and disability.

Lewis is extraordinarily active as a mentor to both graduate and undergraduate students. She has chaired 25 master’s degree student committees in five different programs and has served on the committees for nearly 30 more students at either the master’s degree or doctoral level. Lewis plays a central role in graduate mentorship across many humanities and social science fields, particularly for students whose research relates to issues of gender and sexuality.

Faculty Excellence in Research

Lincoln Mullen is an associate professor in the Department of History and Art History in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. He joined the Mason faculty in 2014.

As a historian of American religion and the 19th-century United States, his first book, The Chance of Salvation: A History of Conversion in America, published by Harvard University Press in 2017, won a Best Book prize from the American Academy of Religion. His second major project in this field was America’s Public Bible, published by Stanford University Press in 2023. This interactive scholarly work uncovers the history of the Bible in the 19th- and early 20th-century United States using computational methods.

Mullen is also executive director of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, the oldest and largest digital humanities center in the country. He has directed nine major collaborative digital projects and created several new software tools to examine or visualize historical datasets. One example is Mapping Early American Elections, which turned electoral returns from the first several decades of U.S. history into a dataset that could be analyzed and mapped using data visualization tools.

Faculty Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion

Xiaomei Cai,  associate chair and associate professor in the Department of Communication in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, is the recipient of The United Bank Presidential Medal for Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion. At Mason since 2006, her research and scholarship focus on the well-being of vulnerable populations, especially with respect to children’s privacy on the internet and health prevention among adolescents.

Cai’s leadership of inclusive excellence causes was motivated, in part, by the surge of anti-Asian discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cai played a lead role in developing the CHSS Network, a faculty mentoring program that reaches all faculty but was created in part to ensure that underrepresented faculty members receive adequate guidance and support.

Cai has also been instrumental in the development of the college’s inclusive faculty search protocol, which resulted in a significant increase in the number of minoritized faculty at the college, as well as in the number of faculty whose scholarly expertise and research reflects broader, more diverse interests. Within the Department of Communication, she has aligned the departmental goals with college-wide inclusive excellence efforts.

Cai has recently taken on the program coordinator role for the Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander Affinity Group . She has partnered with organizations such as the Chinese American Parents Association of Northern Virginia to advance justice-related causes.

Faculty Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion

Gabrielle Tayac is an associate professor and public historian who joined the faculty in the Department of History and Art History in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences in 2020. Prior to that, she served as an educator, historian, and curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, where she became a leading figure in the development of community curation, a new inclusive methodology for studying and representing the history of underrepresented groups. This methodology combines archival research with oral history and other forms of community engagement.

Tayac has created six new courses that teach community-engaged public history methods to undergraduate and graduate students. In each course, she builds in experiential learning opportunities in which her students interact with knowledge holders from the marginalized communities whose history they are studying.

With funding from the Virginia Humanities Foundation, Tayac led doctoral students in an oral history project with Barrios Unidos, a grassroots anti-violence organization in Northern Virginia that developed Indigenous cultural practices as a healing modality for gang-involved youth.