The innovative dean of UNC’s pharmacy school and a professor who championed American studies were honored Friday with the GAA’s Faculty Service Award.
The GAA Board of Directors presented the awards to Robert “Bob” Blouin, dean of the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, and Joy Kasson, professor emerita in the American studies department. The award, established in 1990, honors faculty members who have performed outstanding service for the University or the association.
In addition to being 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 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 No. 27 in National Institutes of Health research grants; now it is No. 2. Its doctor of pharmacy program is ranked No. 2 by U.S. News & World Report.
Blouin also has revolutionized the school’s curriculum, developing a “flipped” model in which many faculty have moved lecture material online and 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, with undergraduate and graduate enrollment up about 25 percent. 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.
When Kasson and her husband, John Kasson, arrived at UNC 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. Eventually she was hired as the first tenure-track faculty in American studies, and by the time she retired in 2015, it was a full-fledged department with 16 tenure-track faculty members and a doctoral program, encompassing Southern studies, folklore, American Indian studies, international American studies and the digital humanities.
Kasson has 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 with its Thomas Jefferson Award. The following year, the American Studies Association honored her 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 such 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 also has been known as an advocate for her students and fellow faculty outside the classroom. During her undergraduate years at Radcliffe and doctoral program at Yale she did not have a female professor, so she has guided students in practical aspects of work-life balance. Kasson was lauded in 2006 with a mentoring award by UNC’s Women’s Leadership Council. She also has been an advocate for family-friendly workplace policies, spurred by experience when female faculty timed pregnancies to deliver during summer breaks because there was no maternity leave. Today, UNC has a family leave policy.
Recent award recipients and related coverage is available online: