Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures receives Z.T. Scott Fellowship for dedicated mentorship and outstanding teaching
by Carlos Anchondo '14
Heather I. Sullivan, professor of German in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, has been named the 2016 recipient of the Dr. and Mrs. Z.T. Scott Faculty Fellowship in recognition of her exemplary abilities as a scholar, teacher, and mentor.
The Z.T. Scott Fellowship includes a cash award to be utilized for professional development and research. In 1984, Trinity University Trustee Richard M. Kleberg III founded the Fellowship to honor his grandparents, Dr. and Mrs. Z.T. Scott. The award, announced May 14 during Trinity's undergraduate commencement, is the most distinguished award the University bestows.
Sullivan has taught at Trinity since 1995, becoming a full professor in 2012. She is known for the wide variety of material she teaches, including courses on German grammar and literature, science fiction and the environment, comparative literature, German fairy tales, and more. In addition to an extensive breadth of course offerings, many of which are often difficult to enroll in due to popularity, Sullivan is lauded for her commitment to each student's education, always careful to dedicate time to office hours and provide detailed feedback on essays and tests. Sullivan's high academic standards motivate her students to produce their best work.
In an age where language study has seen a national decline, Sullivan has breathed new life into the German Studies major. Through her guidance, she has expanded the German Studies program so that it includes courses in other departments, such as history and political science, in addition to courses on Goethe, gender and the novella, German Romanticism, and others. On top of her teaching duties, Sullivan has served Trinity in a wealth of leadership positions, including as Chair of the Sustainability Committee, organizer of the First-Year Experience titled "A Warming World," organizer of the Interdisciplinary Cluster "Nature, Culture, Catastrophes," and co-director of the Mellon Initiative.
Julie Koser '99, now an associate professor of German at the University of Maryland, credits Sullivan for instilling a lifelong love of German that sparked her own academic career.
"Dr. Sullivan fostered an environment in which students' ideas and opinions were respected, their voices heard, and in which they dared to think for themselves," Koser says. "I am forever indebted to Dr. Sullivan for always believing in me and for giving students the confidence to think and speak without fear."
Koser's remarks are echoed by Joshua Adams '12, a former Aneliese Duncan Award recipient for his work as an outstanding German major. Adams, a member of the men's varsity soccer team while at Trinity, says Sullivan always was "accommodating to his schedule," but that she "never lowered her expectations" when it came to his academics.
"Dr. Sullivan is one of the most engaging people I have ever met," Adams says. "She made sure I never missed any pivotal points from lectures or readings, following up in office hours and in emails after class. If you have been lucky enough to have a conversation with Dr. Sullivan, you will understand how endearing she is."
In addition to German studies, Sullivan writes and teaches about ecocriticism, or a literary approach that studies how literature engages with the physical world. She is also a co-editor with Caroline Schaumann of German Ecocriticism in a series by U. Heise and recently gave a keynote lecture, titled "Goethe and the Anthropocene," at the 2015 Goethe Festival at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Sullivan earned her bachelor's from the University of Puget Sound and her master's and Ph.D. from the University of Washington.
Carlos Anchondo is a writer and editor for University Marketing and Communications. He is a 2014 graduate of Trinity and can be found at @cjanchondo or at canchond [at] trinity.edu.