College honors students, faculty with 2023 Charter Day awards, announces 2023 Plumeri Award recipients

Sophia Hagos Haile ’23 receives James Monroe Prize in Civic Leadership. // RYAN GOODMAN

Thursday, Feb. 2, The College of William and Mary recognized students and faculty for a commitment to excellence ahead of the 330th anniversary of the College’s Charter. 

This year, Sophia Hagos Haile ’23 received the James Monroe Prize in Civic Leadership, Yuxin Qin ’23 received the Thomas Jefferson Prize in Natural Philosophy, Professor of Law Stacy Elizabeth Kern-Scheerer received the Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award and Professor of Business Administration Ronald R. Sims received the Thomas Jefferson Award. The ceremony also honored Haynes Professor of Law Paul Marcus, recipient of the 2022 Thomas Jefferson Award.

In addition, the College honored 11 faculty members with the Plumeri Award for Faculty Excellence. The award, established by Joseph J. Plumeri ’66, D.P.S. ’11 in 2009, recognizes exceptional faculty members at the College. Each recipient receives a $20,000 stipend to continue pursuing their scholastic endeavors. This year’s recipients are as follows:

  • Nicholas Balascio, Associate Professor of Biology
  • Dawn Edmiston, Clinical Professor of Business
  • Marjorie Friedrichs, Research Professor of Marine Science
  • Rebecca Green, Associate Professor of Law
  • Heartley Huber, Associate Professor of Education
  • Betsy Konefal, Associate Professor of History
  • Molly Swetnam-Burland, Professor of Classical Studies
  • Andrew Wargo, Associate Professor of Marine Science
  • Douglas Young, Associate Professor of Chemistry
  • Tess Ellis, Head Field Hockey Coach
  • Christopher Freiman, Associate Professor of Philosophy

A ceremony recognizing recipients of each award was held in the Raymond A. Mason School of Business ahead of the Charter Day ceremony.

“These awards represent together who we aspire to be as an institution,” President Katherine Rowe said.

The James Monroe Prize in Civic Leadership, awarded to Haile, recognizes a student with a commitment to leadership and addressing the needs of society. Haile was noted for her work with the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers to advance STEM education in underrepresented groups.

“Through your tireless efforts to advance inclusivity for students of color pursuing STEM, you make our community a more just and welcoming place,” Chief Academic Officer Peggy Agouris said.

Haile is also a member of the African Cultural Society and a Writing Resources Center peer consultant. She worked to consolidate research on Vietnam War veterans to help loved ones reconnect, researched the treatment of Black adolescents in the criminal justice system and fundraised to support Ethiopian refugees.

“I hope my advocacy has helped foster inclusive environments, bridge the gap between different communities and empower individuals to reach their full potential,” Haile said.

The Thomas Jefferson Prize in Natural Philosophy, awarded to Qin, recognizes a student for academic excellence in science. Majoring in Mathematics and Studio Art, Qin maintained a 4.0 GPA, is developing an honors thesis and plans to pursue a career as an actuary. Qin is also a published scholar in The American Statistician and a finalist for the Institute for Operations Research and Management Science Undergraduate Operations Research Prize.

Qin emphasized her ambition towards always taking steps in the right direction, no matter if they were big or small.

“We experience a lot of frustrating moments together during our research meeting every week, trying to solve problems, but what happens more often than that are magical moments when we find answers to those questions and make progress,” Qin said.

The Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award recognizes an outstanding teacher committed to the betterment of the self, students and society was awarded to Kern-Scheerer, a Clinical Associate Professor of Law and Director of Clinical Programs at the William and Mary Law School. Kern-Scheerer was also recently elected to the Williamsburg City Council.

“You inspire your colleagues and students daily,” Agouris said. “Your success in the immigration law clinic, in particular, leaves students with lasting impressions of lawyers’ capacities to help others.”

Kern-Scheerer remarked that she never planned to become a professor or work in the immigration space, but the immigration law clinic she created in 2019 recently won its first asylum case and now assists Afghan refugees with visa and residency applications.

“It certainly becomes ever clear to me that personal and professional success is not a moment or a place of arrival, but an ongoing conversation between applying the skills that we know how to do with the principles and qualities that make us who we are,” Kern-Scheerer said.

The Thomas Jefferson Award recognizes an outstanding faculty member for a commitment to service through personal activities, influence and leadership and was given this year to Ronald R. Sims, Floyd Dewey Gottwald Sr. Professor of Business Administration. Over a nearly 40 year long career at the College, Sims has led efforts over the years to expand recognition for diversity, equity and inclusion on campus.

“Being in an environment like William and Mary where service is encouraged, rewarded and expected on a regular basis… being in that kind of environment has helped me really understand the importance of simply paying it forward,” Sims said. “We all need to think about what we can do and not expect anything in return.”

Sims founded the College’s Black Faculty and Staff Forum, worked to maximize learning for College staff with the Leadership Institute and advocated for equity in compensation and recruitment practices. 

The College also recognized the 2022 recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Award, Paul Marcus, who could not attend last year’s ceremony. Marcus retired last year as the Haynes Professor of Law after over 45 years at the College of William and Mary Law School. During his career, he twice served as acting dean of the Law School and taught law to local inmates alongside student co-teachers.

The awardees will again be recognized during the Charter Day ceremony, which will be held this year on Feb. 10 at 4 p.m. in Kaplan Arena.


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