February 4, 2016
When the 2016-2017 academic year begins in August, the faculty of the John V. Roach Honors College will include three new faculty fellows: Dr. Peter Szok, Dr. Suki John and Dr. Mark Dennis.
Honors College faculty fellows are senior TCU faculty who will continue to teach courses in their home departments while delivering one course per semester in the Honors College for the two-year term of their fellowship. In addition to developing and teaching Honors courses, Honors Faculty Fellows will provide significant leadership to the Honors College during their tenure.
Dr. Szok, Dr. John, and Dr. Dennis were selected for this honor through a competitive selection process that commenced in Fall 2015 after an Honors Faculty Task Force proposed new guidelines for the fellowship that were approved by Provost Nowell Donovan. Along with a stipend, each fellow will receive funds for course support and professional development. They will also mentor an Honors College student assistant who will assist them with their teaching and research.
Dr. Peter Szok
Dr. Peter Szok is a professor in TCU’s Department of History and Geography. He received his Ph.D. from Tulane University in modern Latin American history, and now specializes in modern Central America with an emphasis on visual culture.
“I try to approach history in a multidisciplinary fashion and expose students to art, music, literature, and dance,” Szok said.
In fact, Szok’s book Wolf Tracks focuses on Panama’s popular art traditions. Further, Szok’s newest project involves Native American art in modern Panama.
Szok has been at TCU since 2002. Though he teaches classes on Latin America at all levels, he says that his freshman course is a favorite.
Szok applied to be an Honors Faculty Fellow to work with what he calls “some of the university’s most talented students.” He wishes to build intellectual life on campus and share his research interests with the Honors students.
As for honors courses, Szok is planning a Colloquium on Native American movements in modern Latin America as well as a lower-division class titled, “Cultural Visions of Modern Latin America.”
In hopes of expanding international experiences for students, Szok plans to help strengthen the connection between the Honors program and international studies for his Leadership Legacy.
“I would love to be involved in initiatives that encourage students to travel and study abroad,” Szok said.
On a more broad level, Szok said that he wishes to become a better teacher through this experience.
“I also hope to stimulate my students’ intellectual interests,” he said, “and to encourage them to be life-long wanderers and learners.”
Dr. Suki John
Dr. Suki John is an associate professor in the School for Classical & Contemporary Dance at TCU. She holds a BFA in Theatre Arts from the University of New Mexico, an M.A. in Choreography and Dance History from New York University and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies from the University of Connecticut. Dr. John is in her ninth year at TCU.
Dr. John teaches because she “loves seeing people grow and transform and come into themselves. There’s something about working with young adults and watching them blossom and find their voice and their passion, develop their own ideas, learn to question and think critically, and become who they are.”
She “loves the connection between the students and the teachers” at TCU. These connections are allowed because of small classes. “Teachers are accessible to students. It’s an intimate community.”
Dr. John is taking a sabbatical this semester. She’ll mostly be conducting research in Cuba. Through working as a dance professional there, she has learned about “Cuban politics and economics and history and religion and everything!” The course she’s developing this fall for the Honors College, Arts and Activism, is based, in part, on this research.
She hopes to bring to the College a broad perspective of dance.
“It’s a more scholarly field than many people realize,” she said. “No one winces when you mention art history, but they seem to think that the study of dance is always physical, whereas there’s a huge intellectual tradition in dance. I want people to see that we are part of an intellectual traditional as dancers and that the arts in general are not fluff. The arts make life worth living.”
Dr. Mark Dennis
Dr. Mark Dennis is an associate professor of East Asian religions in the TCU Department of Religion. Dennis grew up in Wisconsin and attended the University of Wisconsin for his undergraduate degree and Ph.D. in Buddhist studies. After living all over the world — including Japan and India — Dr. Dennis brought his experience and expertise to TCU in 2007.
“I enjoy teaching here because the students are intelligent, respectful, and engaged, and are interested in ‘mentally migrating’ to other parts of the world,” Dennis said. “My classes all promote this process of mental migration and it’s exciting to see students’ understanding of the world expand as they learn about Tibet, Burma, Bahrain, and many other places that may seem quite distant and foreign to them.”
Dennis recently co-edited an anthology, which came out in February 2015, with Dr. Darren Middleton (also part of TCU’s Religion Department and a current Honors Faculty Fellow) on Shusaku Endo’s novel Silence. This year Dennis also published an article on the film Samsara and another on teaching about India’s independence movement.
It was Dr. Darren Middleton who first influenced Dennis’s decision to apply to be an Honors Faculty Fellow. Middleton shared that it was wonderful to teach the honors students and step outside his typical routine.
“I’m very excited and honored to be named a Faculty Fellow,” Dennis said. He has already planned some of his honors courses. Next fall, he will teach an Honors Colloquium titled “Mindfulness and Millennials.” In the spring, he will teach a course called “India: Past, Present, and Future.”
“I hope to establish new connections and friendships with those I’ll meet in the Honors College,” Dennis said, “and to introduce students to parts of the world and ways of thinking that will mostly be new to them.”
The Honors College is deeply appreciative to outgoing faculty fellows, Dr. Darren Middleton and Dr. Beata Jones, for their service to the College. Drs. Jones and Middleton were the inaugural fellows.
Dr. Jones, a professor of business information systems practice, expresses how her fellowship experience has impacted her professionally: “Being an Honors Faculty Fellow was not only an honor, but a transformational experience which molded my understanding of my values and what I want to do. During the last two-and-a-half years, I developed new interests and perspectives, ultimately embracing a new teaching philosophy, changing the sense of my roles and responsibilities, and becoming better at the faculty craft, which I can now apply in different contexts, as, needed. Being an honors faculty fellow was the ultimate professional development experience for which I am truly grateful.”
Dr. Jones also reflects on her contributions.
“I developed three new honors colloquia, one lower-division honors elective class, a summer Honors Abroad Program: Cultural Pathways through Eastern Europe, and assisted students in their honors theses,” she said. “These courses and programs allowed me to mentor students in and out of the classroom, including providing opportunities to students to present their work at conference, and send their research for publication consideration.”