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News & Events for the Smith College Community
Research & Inquiry April 12, 2016

Profiles in Excellence: Three Faculty Members Named 2016 Recipients of Sherrerd Teaching Prize

Sherrerd recipients 2016
Naomi J. Miller (left), Payal Banarjee (center), Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor (right)

Asking “probing questions,” valuing student voices and pushing for excellence in writing and research.

These are among the qualities displayed by three faculty members chosen for the 2016 Kathleen Compton Sherrerd ’54 and John J. F. Sherrerd Prizes for Distinguished Teaching.

The 2016 honorees are Payal Banerjee, assistant professor of sociology; Naomi J. Miller, professor of English language and literature; and Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor, assistant professor of history.

The three were chosen based on nominations submitted by Smith students, faculty and alumnae.

The annual awards were established in 2002 by a contribution from the late Kathleen Sherrerd ’54 and John Sherrerd to underscore the college’s ongoing commitment to outstanding teaching. (View a list of past Sherrerd award winners.) The honors are given to faculty members who display outstanding abilities in fostering learning and inspiring student achievement—both in and out of the classroom.

This year’s award recipients will be formally recognized at an October 13 ceremony and reception open to the campus community.

Following are brief biographies of the 2016 teaching award winners:

Payal Banerjee, assistant professor of sociology

A member of the Smith faculty since 2009, Banerjee has research interests in globalization, migration and the centrality of state policies in shaping structures of displacement and labor incorporation. Her publications have covered issues such as Indian immigrant technology workers in the U.S. Banerjee’s research on Chinese minorities in India and India-China relations has appeared in Overseas Chinese History Studies (in Mandarin) and China Report, and in the book Doing Time with Nehru. At Smith, Banerjee teaches courses in sociology, gender and global political economy, migration, social theory and a new first-year seminar on Bollywood and globalization. She earned a bachelor of science degree in behavioral sciences from Wilson College and both a master’s and a Ph.D. degree in sociology from Syracuse University. In nominating Banerjee for a Sherrerd Teaching Prize, her students praised her as thorough, approachable and open-minded. “I enjoy her probing questions that push us as students, without making us feel ashamed to ask anything, from simple topic matters to more existential explorations,” one student wrote. Banerjee was promoted this year to associate professor, effective July 1.

Naomi J. Miller, professor of English and the study of women and gender

Miller, who has been teaching at Smith since 2010, holds teaching interests that include Shakespeare, women authors in early modern England, lyric poetry of all periods and children’s literature. Most recently, she has developed a course addressing contemporary women authors’ adaptations of Shakespeare. In addition to scholarly articles, Miller has published several books, including Maternitand Romance Narratives in Early Modern England (2015). She is currently working on two novels: a young adult Shakespeare novel and a historical fiction novel about Renaissance poet Mary Wroth. Her students cite Miller’s skill in teaching writing and discussion skills, as well as her commitment to sharing her passion for literature. “With every paper I’ve written for Professor Miller, I’ve felt myself become a better writer,” one student wrote. “Her enthusiasm, brilliance and effectiveness are unmatched,” said another. Miller—who served as Smith’s director of institutional diversity from 2004 to 2009—earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Princeton University and a master’s and Ph.D. degree in English and American literature from Harvard University.

Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor, assistant professor of history

A member of Smith’s faculty since 2009, Pryor specializes in 19th-century U.S. history and race. Her scholarly interests include enslavement, Black activism, Jim Crow segregation and the pedagogies of teaching the N-word. Pryor’s book Colored Travelers: Mobility and the Fight for Citizenship Before the Civil War will be published this year by the University of North Carolina Press. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Tufts University, a master’s degree in history from Cornell University and a doctorate in U.S. history from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Students say Pryor has helped them learn critical research and writing skills. Faculty colleagues praise Pryor for offering “superb, groundbreaking and up-to-date content” in her classes, noting that “Pryor is training her students to discuss difficult, painful and taboo pasts and presents, and to have the skills and courage to do so within and outside of the classroom.”