Jayne Lewis, Tyrus Miller, and Julia Lupton smiling and laughing with awards

By Nikki Babri

Two eminent scholars from UCI School of Humanities were honored for their exceptional contributions. Julia Reinhard Lupton, Distinguished Professor of English, and Jayne Elizabeth Lewis, professor of English, have received the prestigious 2022-2023 Academic Senate Awards for their outstanding service and teaching. Nominated by colleagues and bestowed annually, these awards recognize their impactful contributions to the university community and beyond.

Transformative service 

Recently bestowed with the prestigious Daniel G. Aldrich, Jr. Distinguished University Service Award, Julia Reinhard Lupton stands out for her unwavering commitment to enhancing educational experiences. From spearheading initiatives like Illuminations and the New Swan Shakespeare Center to leading as the School’s first Associate Dean for Research, Lupton, who is now Interim Director of the UC Humanities Research Institute, exemplifies what a steadfast commitment to excellence, innovation and community engagement looks like. 

Having joined UCI in 1989, her journey intertwines with much of the growth and evolution of UCI itself. "I came to UCI as a young assistant professor, which means I’ve been building programs and forging relationships at UCI for over thirty years,” she shares. "I’ve taken special pleasure in starting new programs and love helping faculty and graduate students find funding and other resources for their work. I’ve met so many brilliant scholars whose ideas have in turn renewed my own teaching and writing.” 

Julia Lupton standing at a podium
Julia R. Lupton accepting the Daniel G. Aldrich, Jr. Distinguished University Service Award (Photo: Hugh Roberts)

Lupton is a highly respected scholar of Early Modern literature and one of the foremost Shakespeareans of her generation. As director of the New Swan Shakespeare Center, she has elevated the profile of Shakespearean studies at UCI and positioned the university as a leading hub for interdisciplinary research and intellectual exchange.

Her dedication to public scholarship shines through initiatives like Humanities Out There (H.O.T.), which she founded in 1997 and directed until 2006. Still ongoing, H.O.T. was one of the first programs nationally to provide graduate students with invaluable mentorship and hands-on, experiential learning experiences, fostering community engagement in underserved areas.

Additionally, much of Lupton’s focus has been on enriching the academic journeys of undergraduate students. Recognizing the transformative impact of co-curricular experiences, she played a pivotal role in establishing the Internships for English Majors program. Her involvement in Humanities Core, as both director and professor, has impacted thousands of first-year students, guiding them academically and through internships and research projects. And she is now leading an undergraduate internship program for humanities majors interested in learning about climate communications through her role as co-investigator in the Wildland-Urban Interface Climate Action Network.

"Much of what we take for granted at UCI today is directly attributable to Professor Lupton’s unique dedication, creativity, efficiency and generosity to all sectors of our community and beyond,” shares Georges Van Den Abbeele, professor of humanities, English and European languages and studies, and former dean of the School of Humanities. 

In her role as the inaugural director of Illuminations: The Chancellor’s Arts and Culture Initiative, the program emerged as a vibrant hub of artistic expression, cultural exploration and interdisciplinary collaboration. "I was so honored when Chancellor Gillman invited me to start Illuminations. Through this arts program, thousands of students each year get to experience the arts and humanities, regardless of their majors,” she shares. Through a diverse array of programming – including author readings, arts performances and community outreach initiatives – she has provided countless opportunities for the UCI community and beyond to engage with the arts and humanities in exciting, transformative ways. 

Amidst her achievements, Lupton remains steadfast in her endeavors to make education more accessible and impactful for all. "There is a lot of talk about 'silos’ at UCI, but I climb right over them,” she explains. "I am blessed to have had so many opportunities to work with faculty, students and staff across campus and in the UC system.”

Cultivating intellectual exploration

Jayne Elizabeth Lewis stands as a pillar of excellence in teaching and mentorship within the Department of English at UCI. Her receipt of the UCI Distinguished Faculty Award for Teaching is a testament to her innovative teaching style, profound commitment to student success and valuable contributions to the academic community.

"Even after decades in the classroom, I find teaching nerve-wracking and inscrutable: I am never sure I am doing it 'right.’ On my deathbed, it will be interesting to see whether I remember this award or the anonymous student evaluation that compared me – contemptuously – to the Energizer Bunny," she jokes. "There are so many dedicated teachers at UC Irvine and this award gives me a profound sense of belonging to the place, and to UC as a whole, whose mission as a public university committed to educating everyone, not just an elite few, has always given me a deep sense of pride. It is beautiful to be seen as sharing that commitment.” 

Jayne Lewis standing at a podium
Jayne E. Lewis accepting the Distinguished Faculty Award for Teaching (Photo: Hugh Roberts)

A consummate educator, Lewis engages students across diverse formats, from large lecture halls to intimate seminars. With expertise spanning Restoration and Eighteenth-century literature, Gothic fiction, literature and medicine and literature and religion, she shares her knowledge with enthusiasm and cultivates intellectual curiosity among her students. Additionally, her pivotal role as a founding contributor to the 'medical humanities' emphasis in the School highlights her commitment to interdisciplinary scholarship and pedagogy.

Lewis emphasizes a multi-dimensional approach to teaching literature, integrating visual aids, creative assignments and personal reflection. Whether exploring the depths of vampire mythology or reimagining classic texts through innovative perspectives (like retelling Satan’s temptation of Eve from the Tree of Knowledge’s point of view), Lewis is renowned for her pedagogical inventiveness and commitment to student-centered learning. Students in her classes feel empowered to explore new ideas and perspectives. 

"I am drawn to anything that plays with perspective and pulls students directly into the literature,” she says. "I value creativity, imagination and intuition and am always trying to mobilize those capacities in my students along with the analytic and logical side of the mind.”

Central to Lewis's teaching philosophy is a deep commitment to mentorship and student development, as evidenced by her deep involvement with programs like UTeach as an advisor and faculty consultant. The educational program empowers upper-division undergraduates to share their knowledge and passions with their peers. Her tireless dedication to guiding students through the research process, providing constructive feedback and instilling confidence in their abilities has earned her widespread admiration and gratitude. One student cited her teaching style and passion for a variety of subjects as "infectious.”

"Jayne is one of the most dedicated, generous, inspiring and thoughtful instructors and mentors I have encountered in over twenty years of university teaching,” shares Allison Perlman, associate professor of film and media studies and history, and former faculty director of the UTeach Program. "I can think of no one more deserving of this award.”

Amidst her myriad achievements, Lewis is most proud of her tenure as director of the Humanities Honors Program (2016-19). Under her leadership, she introduced initiatives like the annual research colloquium and revamped the thesis year to foster a more collaborative environment for students. Through the year-long senior thesis seminar, students received continuous feedback and support, encouraging intellectual exploration and nurturing a sense of community among peers. 

"Congratulations to Professors Lupton and Lewis for their well-deserved recognitions. The School of Humanities celebrates their generous contributions to our academic community," commends Dean Miller. "We are privileged to have such dedicated educators and leaders among us."

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