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Africana Studies director receives MTSU’s to...

Africana Studies director receives MTSU’s top minority faculty honor [+VIDEO]

The leader of MTSU’s emerging Africana Studies Program is the recipient of its highest award for minority faculty.

Dr. Louis Woods, an associate professor of history, received the 2018 John Pleas Faculty Award at a Feb. 22 ceremony in the Tennessee Room of the James Union Building. Pleas, the retired professor for whom the award is named, made the presentation.

In accepting the honor, Woods focused on history, family and a sense of looking toward the future while maintaining a sense of purpose in the present.

“At some point, all of us will be ancestors, and I think we will be measured based on what we do today that will influence future generations,” Woods said.

The new Africana Studies program, which officially began last August, now has 19 majors. Woods said he is excited about its progress and its future.

Associate history professor Louis Woods, recipient of MTSU's 2018 John Pleas Faculty Award, addresses the audience at the Feb. 22 ceremony honoring him in the James Union Building's Tennessee Room. Woods sports the African-styled scarf that Pleas gave him during the presentation. (MTSU photo by Eric B. Sutton)

Associate history professor Louis Woods, recipient of MTSU’s 2018 John Pleas Faculty Award, addresses the audience at the Feb. 22 ceremony honoring him in the James Union Building’s Tennessee Room. Woods sports the African-styled scarf that Pleas gave him during the presentation. (MTSU photo by Eric B. Sutton)

Woods’ areas of expertise include public history, civil rights history, federal housing policy, African-American World War II naval history and African-American veterans’ access to the G.I. Bill.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in Africana studies from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1999, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. He obtained his master’s and doctoral degrees in African-American history in 2001 and 2006, respectively, from Howard University in Washington, D.C.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee hailed the choice.

“I think we’re blessed to have faculty members like you,” McPhee said. “You’re really the future, you and your colleagues, you are the future of the professorship and higher education.”

Africana Studies Program logoAngelique Plasky, a senior from Memphis, Tennessee, with double majors in political science and Africana studies, said she was always interested in black history but only considered it an elective until she studied with Woods.

“Under your guidance and your mentorship, I have managed to find something that I’m genuinely passionate about and that I can see affecting my life, as well as the lives of others,” Plasky told her professor from the lectern.

The John Pleas Faculty Award was established in 1997 to honor Dr. John Pleas, a professor emeritus of psychology and recipient of the 1999 Outstanding Teaching Award. It is presented annually to a minority faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in teaching, research and service.

Nominees must have completed at least five years of service at MTSU and have a record of outstanding service. Each nominee must have three letters to support his or her nomination.

Pleas said he also is pleased with Woods’ selection, both as the award recipient and as the leader of the Africana Studies program.

“This program is going to have an impact in five to seven years because it’s needed, and this information that they’re going to be disseminating and teaching over the coming years is going to make a change,” Pleas said.

As is tradition, this year’s ceremony was coordinated by the previous year’s award recipient, social work professor Barbara Turnage, now interim associate dean of the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences.

You can learn more about the John Pleas Award here. Along with Turnage, previous winners of the Pleas Faculty Recognition Award since its inception are:

  • Dr. Bichaka Fayissa, economics professor, 1998.
  • Dr. Laura Jarmon, English professor, 1999.
  • Dr. Gloria Bonner, dean of the College of Education, 2000.
  • Dr. Sharon Shaw-McEwen, social work professor, 2001.
  • Dr. Alphonse Carter, engineering technology professor, 2002.
  • Dr. Bertha Clark, professor of communication disorders, 2003.
  • Dr. Anantha Babbili, 2004, dean of the College of Mass Communication.
  • Dr. Pat Patterson, professor of chemistry, 2005.
  • Dr. Rosemary Owens, dean of continuing studies and public service, 2006.
  • Dr. Connie Wade, chair of the Department of Elementary and Special Education, 2007.
  • Dr. Marva Lucas, chair of the Department of University Studies, 2008.
  • Dr. Adonijah Bakari, history professor, 2009.
  • Dr. Dwight Patterson, 2010, chemistry professor.
  • Dr. Raphael Bundage, 2011, music professor.
  • Dr. Cheryl Slaughter Ellis, professor of community and public health, 2012.
  • Dr. Newtona “Tina” Johnson, professor of English and director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, 2013.
  • Dr. Sekou Franklin, political science professor, 2014.
  • Dr. Michaele Chappell, professor of mathematics education and coordinator for the Masters of Science in Teaching program, 2015.
  • Dr. Linda Clark, professor of mathematics in the Department of University Studies, 2016.

— Gina K. Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)

MTSU associate history professor Louis Woods, left, thanks psychology Professor Emeritus John Pleas after receiving the 2018 John Pleas Faculty Award during a Feb. 22 ceremony in the James Union Building's Tennessee Room. (MTSU photo by Eric B. Sutton)

MTSU associate history professor Louis Woods, left, thanks psychology Professor Emeritus John Pleas after receiving the 2018 John Pleas Faculty Award during a Feb. 22 ceremony in the James Union Building’s Tennessee Room. (MTSU photo by Eric B. Sutton)

MTSU students gather on the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, for a photo during a spring 2016 trip to civil rights sites organized by the universty's Africana Studies Program. (Photo courtesy of MTSU Africana Studies Program)

MTSU students gather on the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, for a photo during a spring 2016 trip to civil rights sites organized by the universty’s Africana Studies Program. History professor Louis Woods, who is the new recipient of MTSU’s highest honor for minority faculty, the John Pleas Award, serves as director of the program. (File photo courtesy of MTSU Africana Studies Program)


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