By Marc R. Masferrer, University Communications and Marketing
University of South Florida Women in Leadership & Philanthropy has named two faculty members on the Sarasota-Manatee campus as recipients of Dr. Kathleen Moore Faculty Excellence Awards, which recognize female faculty at USF for their research, instructional excellence, mentorship and student engagement.
Both Lindsay Persohn and Helene Robinson have used podcasts to translate their research and other academic interests for larger audiences and will use cash awards that come with the WLP’s recognition to support that work.
Persohn, an assistant professor of literacy studies, received the USF Sarasota-Manatee Faculty Excellence Award. Robinson, an associate professor of instruction and director of USF's Critical and Creative Design Thinking program on the Sarasota-Manatee campus, received the Instructor Excellence Award. The awards were presented during a ceremony on April 12.
A former elementary teacher, school librarian and coordinator of libraries for a large public school district, Persohn focuses her research on children’s literature and illustrations. She currently is helping lead the Booker Literacy Initiative, which connects youngsters at one of Sarasota’s most economically impoverished middle schools with USF students, who provide tutoring and mentorship. One main goal of the program is to support Booker Middle School students as they cultivate a love of reading.
Persohn also is the host and executive producer of the “Classroom Caffeine” podcast, where she translates the work of education researchers for practicing teachers so they can apply it in their classrooms. The podcast has been downloaded more than 17,000 times in almost 2,000 cities in 80 countries.
“What an honor to be selected for a WLP Faculty Excellence Award!” Persohn said. “This award not only validates the work I have been doing to support the translation of education research to practice, it also provides resources to help us continue to grow the impact of the project.
“WLP is such an inspiring organization, full of people who care about innovation that supports our local community and beyond. I am thrilled to be a part of WLP and look forward to learning from this generous and forward-thinking group of mentors,” Persohn said.
A former teacher for students who experienced disability, Robinson’s 15 years in higher education has focused on creating inclusive environments using multi-tiered systems of support, arts integration, self-regulation strategies, critical thinking creativity and design thinking to remove barriers to learning so that all students, staff and faculty can thrive. Due to her own experience with breast cancer, her recent research explores the intersection of disability, feminine identity, ableism and disenfranchised grief among breast cancer survivors and warriors.
Much of Robinson’s research, mentorship and advocacy are inspired by her own experience with breast cancer. On her podcast, “Hugs from Heaven for Sister Warriors,” Robinson has interviewed other USF professors, other breast cancer warriors and medical professionals to provide translational research and explore stories about "the struggles we have to reclaim the power of our feminine identity and sexuality,” acknowledging the grief and the gratitude that is part of the journey on the way to becoming a breast cancer thriver.
“My goal and my intention is to reshape the conversation about what is beauty and what beauty really means when you lose your breasts, when you lose your hair, when you lose a lot of the things that most identify you as a woman, that make you feel beautiful, that make you feel like you are feminine,” Robinson said.
Robinson said she will use her award to support both the editing of her podcast and her arts-based research, which involves using creative dance, music and visual art collages to tell the stories of breast cancer warriors, thrivers and survivors and provide translational research.
“I personally experienced everything that I examined in this research,” Robinson said. “This is my way to pay it forward. I am incredibly grateful to the WLP for their support so that I can pay it forward for other women. I look forward to learning from and collaborating with such inspiring and innovative women.”
WLP members in 2007 established the Faculty Research Award program to recognize a female faculty member whose research and scholarly efforts focused on women. The program was expanded in 2018 after lifetime member Kathleen Moore made a generous contribution to establish six annual awards.