Sydney S. Gross
Director of Communications
The Academic Awards Committee of Columbia College is pleased to announce the 2017 winners of the student-nominated Lionel Trilling Book Award and Mark Van Doren Award for Teaching. Elizabeth Povinelli, the Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology, will be awarded the 42nd annual Lionel Trilling Book Award, for her book Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism. Caterina Luigia Pizzigoni, associate professor of history and a teacher in the College’s Core Curriculum, will be honored with the 56th annual Mark Van Doren Award for Teaching for her unparalleled dedication to teaching and to her students.
The honorees are selected annually by a committee of Columbia College students that recognizes faculty members for their contributions to academia and publishing. They will receive their awards at a ceremony on Wednesday, May 3, at 6 p.m., in Low Library’s Faculty Room. All are invited to attend.
About the Lionel Trilling Book Award
The Lionel Trilling Book Award is awarded annually to a member of the faculty whose book was published in the previous year and upholds a level of excellence commensurate with the work of Lionel Trilling CC’25, GSAS’38. The award was established in 1976 in honor of Trilling, a gifted and dedicated Columbia professor who was committed to undergraduate education, as well as a public intellectual known for his scholarship and literary criticism, which appealed to a wide audience.
Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism continues Povinelli’s project of mapping the current conditions of late liberalism by offering a bold retheorization of power, examining the formation of power from the perspective of Indigenous Australian maneuvers against the settler state.
Academic Awards Committee member David Yang CC’17 described Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism as “a pathbreaking accomplishment.”
“At once daringly original and dazzlingly poetic, the work develops a new set of critical vocabulary with which some of the most pressing problems of our time can now be addressed,” said Yang. “In honoring Professor Povinelli with the Lionel Trilling Book Award, we wish to recognize her unwavering commitment to critical inquiry.”
Povinelli, whose work is focused on developing a critical theory of late liberalism that would support an anthropology of the otherwise, was particularly honored that the award was chosen by students.
“To my knowledge, the Lionel Trilling Book Award is the one book prize at Columbia whose recipient is selected by students. For every scholar, the next generation of students is the one perennially tasked with the job of transforming new forms of knowledge into new trajectories of action,’” said Povinelli. “I am honored if Geontologies can help with their task."
About the Mark Van Doren Award for Teaching
The Mark Van Doren Award for Teaching was established in honor of Mark Van Doren GSAS’20, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, novelist, playwright, critic, editor and biographer, as well as a renowned scholar and legendary Columbia faculty member. It has been awarded annually since 1962 in recognition of a faculty member’s humanity, devotion to truth and inspiring leadership.
Pizzigoni, who specializes in the colonial history of Latin America, teaches Primary Texts of Latin American Civilization, a Global Core course, as well as in the Department of History.
Committee member Rebecca Teich CC’18 said Pizzigoni is committed to students and passionate about her teaching.
“From her lectures to her seminars to individual advising, it is clear that Caterina Pizzigoni holds a deeply ethical commitment to her students as well as to providing a rigorous engagement with the material” said Rebecca Teich CC’18. “Her contagious passion and caring facilitate a crucial space of intellectual and personal development and support for undergraduate students.”
Pizzigoni previously received the Lenfest Distinguished Columbia Faculty Award, the Columbia Mentoring Initiative Award, and the General Studies Student Council Excellence in Teaching Award, as well as multiple research fellowships.
“This award means the world to me since it comes from the students,” said Pizzigoni. “I care deeply about them and about teaching, and if I am a good teacher it's because they have made me one.”
About the Academic Awards Committee
The Academic Awards Committee of Columbia College is responsible for awarding the Trilling and Van Doren awards each year. The committee is composed of 20 students wjho represent a cross-section of classes and majors. The group meets weekly throughout the academic year to determine the professor and book most fitting for awards, reading the books of Trilling nominees and auditing the courses of Van Doren nominees.
Trilling nominations are considered for style, accessibility, scholarship, relevance, and whether or not the committee would recommend the book to peers. Van Doren criteria includes class presentation of material, undergraduate community involvement and mentorship of students.
Caroline Chen CC’17, who has served on the Academic Awards Committee for three years, finds that her work on the committee allows her to connect more deeply with her Columbia education.
“As a result of the committee, I have been further immersed in the Columbia education by attending various classes and reading books outside of my major requirements,” said Chen. “I find it extremely fulfilling that my work on the committee positively impacts the Columbia community, as it encourages excellence in research and teaching. The committee reminds me how grateful and privileged I am to receive the first-rate education here in the College.”