UNC-Chapel Hill General Alumni Association presents faculty service awards

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s General Alumni Association (GAA) has honored  an American studies professor and the dean of the school of pharmacy with its Faculty Service Awards. Joy Kasson, professor emeritus in Carolina’s department of American studies, College of Arts and Sciences, and Dean Robert “Bob” Blouin of the UNC-Chapel Hill Eshelman School of Pharmacy received the awards from the GAA’s board of directors at a banquet held on Friday, Jan. 15, at the George Watts Hill Alumni Center.

Joy Kasson in lounge in Greenlaw Hall
Joy Kasson (photo by Dan Sears)

When Kasson and her husband, John Kasson, arrived at Carolina in 1971, their field of American studies was only a curriculum. She was hired as an instructor in the English department and he joined the history department. Kasson was appointed as the first tenure-track faculty member in American studies, College of Arts and Sciences, and by the time she retired in 2015, American studies was a full-fledged department with 16 tenure-track faculty members and a doctoral program. The American studies program now encompasses Southern studies, folklore, American Indian studies, international American studies and the digital humanities.

During her career at UNC-Chapel Hill, Kasson received five teaching awards: the Carmichael, Tanner and Johnston awards and twice was named to the Bowman and Gordon Gray Chair for Distinguished Teaching. In 2012, she was recognized by UNC-Chapel Hill with its Thomas Jefferson Award. The following year, the American Studies Association honored Kasson with its Mary C. Turpie Prize for outstanding teaching, advising and program development.

Between 2012 and 2015, Kasson was the Mellon Distinguished Scholar for Carolina Performing Arts and helped create opportunities for students through such innovative programs as Arts@TheCore, which strengthens the relationship between the performing arts and academics. Kasson has chaired the Burch Fellows advisory committee and selection committee and twice directed the Honors Program in London.

Kasson is also known as an advocate for her students and fellow faculty members. She advises students and faculty in practical aspects of work-life balance, and was recognized in 2006 with a mentoring award by UNC-Chapel Hill’s Women’s Leadership Council. She is a strong advocate for family-friendly workplace policies.

In addition to serving as the dean, Blouin is the Vaughn and Nancy Bryson Distinguished Professor of molecular pharmaceutics and director of the Eshelman Institute for Innovation in the pharmacy school. He joined the school as dean in 2003 after 25 years at the University of Kentucky serving as an assistant professor, associate dean of research and graduate education and director of entrepreneurship and economic development. At that time, UNC’s pharmacy school was ranked 27th nationally by the National Institutes of Health in research grants. The school is now ranked No. 2 in that category and its doctor of pharmacy program is also ranked as No. 2 in the nation.

Blouin has revolutionized the school’s curriculum, developing a “flipped” model in which many faculty have moved lecture material online and now spend class time focused on application, problem-solving, critical thinking and teamwork. The school has launched a software-development company useful to academic institutions; established professional degree satellite programs in eastern and western North Carolina; and increased the number of faculty by 70 percent, attracting world-class teachers and researchers. During his tenure, undergraduate and graduate enrollment has increased by about 25 percent and the size of the school’s facilities has nearly doubled with the opening of the Genetic Medicine Building in 2008 and Marsico Hall in 2014.

The school’s Eshelman Institute for Innovation, launched with a $100 million gift in 2014 from Fred Eshelman ’72, aims to accelerate change in education and health care by fostering collaboration, creativity and innovation and stimulating entrepreneurial development and the commercialization of resulting intellectual property.

Blouin has co-founded a strategic partnership with premier pharmacy schools in Australia and London. He chairs the Council of Deans of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy and he has been inducted into the University of Kentucky Alumni Hall of Fame.

The General Alumni Association is a self-governed, nonprofit association serving alumni and friends of UNC-Chapel Hill since 1843.