College Honors Faculty Promoted in 2021

The College of Arts & Letters is pleased to recognize several faculty members who recently were promoted to full professor, associate professor, or associate professor-fixed term. These faculty were honored during special ceremonies at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center in October and November.

Full Professor Promotions:

  • Adam Brown, Department of Art, Art History, and Design
  • Gretel Vanwieren, Department of Religious Studies

Associate Professor Promotions:

  • Sandra Deshors, Department of Linguistics, Languages, and Cultures
  • Jon Keune, Department of Religious Studies
  • Deric McNish, Department of Theatre
  • Bradley Willcuts, Department of Theatre

Associate Professor-Fixed Term:

  • Kate Birdsall, Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures
  • Jason Price, Department of Theatre

Adam Brown

Man with brown hair holding a clear test tube with liquid in it.
Adam Brown

Adam Brown, Professor in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design, works in the interdisciplinary areas of electronic and media art and has attracted international acclaim in the emerging field of BioArt, including five international prizes, four solo exhibitions, dozens of national or international group exhibitions, and one film screening. He has received several internal grants and a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for his work.   

In 2020, his piece (ir)reverent: Miracles on Demand, was selected from more than 3,000 entries at the 23rd Annual Japan Media Arts Festival in Tokyo, Japan, and awarded the Grand Prize. He also has had other works recognized with Honorable Mentions at the premier exhibit and award venue in the field of Electronic Arts in Linz, Austria, known as Ars Electronica. Another work, ReBioGeneSys, has been acquired for future inclusion in the permanent collection of the Museum of Natural History and Science in Porto, Portugal. 

Brown is the creator of the BRIDGE Artist-in-Residency Program, which has brought five artists, including two international, to campus. The program is collaboratively supported by Lyman Briggs College, the College of Arts & Letters, Broad Art Museum, and Abrahms Planetarium.

He regularly teaches both undergraduate and graduate students in Studio Art and is lauded for his mentorship and dedication to experiential learning opportunities, bringing students together with scientists to explore the synergy of the art/science laboratories.  

Gretel Van Wieren

Woman with blonde hair wearing a navy blue shirt.
Gretel Van Wieren

Gretel Van Wieren, Professor in the Department of Religious Studies, has demonstrated exemplary research productivity in her fields of religion and environmental ethics, specifically ecological restoration and food systems with an interdisciplinary theoretical approach and a focus on practice. 

She has published three books: Listening at Lookout Creek: Nature in Spiritual Practice; Food, Farming, and Religion: Emerging Ethical Perspectives; and Restored to Earth: Christianity, Environmental Ethics, and Ecological Restoration. She also has written several peer-reviewed articles, three book chapters, and multiple shorter pieces.  

Van Wieren is founder of the digital scholarly network and Mellon-funded The New Ethics of Food Network. She also was a founding member of The Restoration Ecology Global Education Network (REGEN) and The Blue River Quorum that developed “The Blue River Declaration: Ethics for a Changing Planet,” a manifesto on humanity’s relationship and obligations to Earth. In addition, she is on the advisory board of the International Society of Environmental Ethics and the editorial board of the Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture

In 2017, Van Wieren was awarded MSU’s University Teacher-Scholar Award in recognition of her outstanding scholarship and teaching. She also is a recipient of a 2016 Mellon Foundation/Humanities Without Walls grant on the New Ethics of Food, and a 2015 H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest writing residency. 

Sandra Deshors

A black and white photo of a woman smiling.
Sandra Deshors

Sandra Deshors, Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics, Languages, and Cultures, is a member of the core faculty in the Second Language Studies Ph.D. Program and the Master of Arts in TESOL Program. She specializes in quantitative corpus-based approaches to learner language.

In her research, she contrasts English as a Foreign Language (EFL), English as a Second Language (ESL), and World Englishes at large. In that regard, she has primarily focused on investigating linguistic co-occurrence patterns that set non-native Englishes apart as well as identifying the cognitive factors that cause those patterns to emerge.

In the last few years, Deshors has become interested in issues relating to linguistic innovations in learner English and the theoretical modeling of World Englishes. Theoretically, her research is anchored in the usage-based theoretical framework and recognizes a correlation between speakers’ mental knowledge of linguistic items and their uses in grammatical contexts. Methodologically, she has applied and (co-) developed multifactorial statistical approaches to grammatical patterns characteristic of learner English(es). She teaches courses in corpus linguistics as well as general introductions to the field of Second Language Acquisition.

Jon Keune

Man with short brown hair wearing a light blue dress shirt and dark blue vest.
Jon Keune

Jon Keune, Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies, has developed five new courses at all levels for the Religious Studies curriculum. He has organized and moderated the annual Religious Studies undergraduate student research symposium, which has included designing a successful hybrid virtual format during the past two years. As a Lilly Faculty Fellow, he is working on “modules of international presence” for use in MSU classes.

Keune’s primary work is in South Asian religions, more specifically on the development of popular devotional Hindu traditions and modern Buddhism in India. He has published the monograph Shared Devotion, Shared Food: Equality and the Bhakti-Caste Question in Western India; co-edited the collection Regional Communities of Devotion in South Asia: Insiders, Outsiders and Interlopers; and published five book chapters and four peer-reviewed articles in major journals in the field, including in the highly selective Journal of the American Academy of Religion. Two of these publications were in Marathi language. He now is studying Mandarin Chinese and working on contemporary transnational Buddhism and Dalit migration.

Keune is very active in organizing and collaborating. He is the co-founder of the Regional Bhakti Scholars Network, which hosts annual symposia as part of the South Asia Studies Conference and is working a grant-sponsored digital humanities project, the Bhakti Virtual Archive (BHAVA). Beyond his solid record of collegial service, he regularly reviews manuscripts for various journals, serves on committees of several professional societies, and has given multiple public talks in local, national, and international community venues. 

Deric McNish

Man with short brown hair wearing glasses and a brown dress shirt.
Deric McNish

Deric McNish, Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre, is a “scholar-artist” in the area of performance fluency and co-author the book, Drama in the Language Classroom: What Every ESL Teacher Needs to Know.

His creative activity has consisted of local and regional community directing as well as an international venue, including 16 department and Summer Circle productions and as a voice, speech, and acting coach in productions with the Williamston Theatre, Wharton Center, Kickshaw in Ann Arbor, and American University of Sharja in the United Arab Emirates, along with several high schools. 

In September 2017, he was recognized by the Voice and Speech Trainers Association with the Dudley Knight Award for Outstanding Vocal Scholarship for his 2016 publication, The Performance of Fluency, in their journal Voice and Speech Review. In addition, he was recognized by the College of Arts & Letters Alumni Association in 2017 with an Innovation and Leadership Award for Faculty.

The Lansing City Pulse recognized his production of Hair with its Pulsar Award for “Best Director of a Musical” and “Best Ensemble” in 2015. In 2018, he was recognized with a first-place AT&T Award in Instructional Technology in the Technology Enhanced Course category, and in 2019, he was awarded an MSU All-University Teacher-Scholar Award. In addition, he received the 2017Fintz Award for Teaching Excellence in the Arts and Humanities from the College of Arts & Letters Center for Integrated Studies in the Arts & Humanities as well as the TESOL Best of Affiliate Award in 2017 for his teaching from the Michigan TESOL organization. 

Bradley Willcuts

Man with buzzed head and thick beard in a light blue v-neck.
Bradley Willcuts

Bradley Willcuts, Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre, focuses his work on acting and performance pedagogy, particularly in musical theatre and fight and movement instruction. 

His directing has focused on productions at MSU and his work with the nationally known îmáGen, a collaboration between the Department of Theatre and Wharton Center that brings MSU and high school students together with Broadway musical writers. He has served as program director for îmáGen and has dedicated a significant portion of his service to the profession in multiple areas for the National Alliance of Musical Theatre, an organization dedicated to the development of new musicals. 

Earlier this year, Willcuts was named a 2021 recipient of Michigan State University’s Teacher-Scholar Award in recognition of his outstanding scholarship and teaching. In 2020, he was awarded a Catalyst Grant from the MSU HUB for his “Social Reality Dance Project” where he creates virtual and augmented reality spaces for his dance class. In 2019, he received the Fintz Award for Teaching Excellence in the Arts and Humanities from the College of Arts & Letters Center for Integrated Studies in the Arts & Humanities and, in 2017, he was recognized with an AT&T Award in Instructional Technology in the Best Enhanced course category for this work.

Willcuts was Assistant Director of Fight and Movement for the original musical Amazing Grace on Broadway and was subsequently hired for the national tour. He also recently worked as Assistant Fight Choreographer on the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Porgy and Bess, which was broadcast nationally in its Great Performances series. 

Kate Birdsall

Woman with short brown hair wearing black glasses and a blue scarf.
Kate Birdsall

Kate Birdsall, promoted to Associate Professor – Fixed-Term in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Culture (WRAC), has taught an impressive array of courses both in the first-year writing program, the Professional Writing major, as well as courses for Arts & Letters, the Center for Integrative Studies in the Arts & Humanities, Department of English, and Residential College in the Arts & Humanities. 

Birdsall also is engaged in improving her teaching and writing expertise beyond the classroom. She has served as Director of The Cube (processing – process – praxis) in WRAC since spring 2018 through which she oversees six different publications that include the digital student-led The Current and ing Magazine as well as two peer-reviewed academic journals: constellations and Journal of Global Literacies, Technologies, and Emerging Pedagogies. The Cube is working with K-12 districts in the area on communications strategies and accompanying websites. Last year, they worked on the Trojan Mental Health Matters website and, this year, they are working with Holt Public Schools on a DEI campaign. Birdsall won the 2021-2022 Creating Inclusive Excellence Grant (CIEG) for the DEI work The Cube is doing. 

Additionally, Birdsall has published creative works including two mysteries – The Flats: A Liz Boyle Mystery and The Heights: A Liz Boyle Mystery – and several short stories. She has received two DH@MSU grants, given several invited lectures and readings, and has presented 15 conference papers since 2014, including at national venues such as the Computers & Writing Conference and the Conference on College Composition and Communication. 

Jason Price

Man with red hair wearing glasses and a suit and tie.
Jason Price

The late Dr. Jason Price was promoted to Associate Professor – Fixed-term in the Department of Theatre. He was a beloved colleague, an amazing teacher, and an excellent artist and scholar.

He began as Assistant Professor of Sound Design at MSU in the Department of Theatre in 2011. And from 2000-2016, he toured with the internationally known performance group Alarm Will Sound. He retired from the music performance circuit in 2016 to focus on promoting the field of sound design and audio engineering. He was an electro-acoustic designer composer who composed original music scores and created soundscapes to accompany live music performances and theatrical productions from the experimental to the more conventional. His production compositions evoked a wide range of genres in primarily local and regional productions.  

Price taught both for the Center for Integrated Studies in the Arts & Humanities and the Department of Theater. He expanded the opportunities of his students by integrating a range of new media platforms, such as Instagram and TikTok, and employing an experiential, project-based approach. In addition to teaching, he often mentored both graduate and undergraduate sound design students, many of whom have gone on to further study and successful careers in sound design.

Price won many awards including a Lansing City Pulsar Award for Best Sound Design in 2017, a Lansing State Journal Thespie Award for Best Sound Design, a Michigan Equity Theatre Alliance Wilde Award in 2013 for Best Sound/Video Design, an American Composers Forum 2010 Encore Grant Recipient, and a Concert Music Award by the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers for Alarm Will Sound in 2006. Additionally, he served as a Grammy voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.