Three Faculty Members Awarded the Nelson Bushnell ’20 Prize

Media contact: Gregory Shook, director of media relations; tele: 413-597-3401; email: [email protected]

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., June 30, 2020—Three faculty members at Williams College are the recipients of the Nelson Bushnell ’20 Prize for excellence in teaching and writing, an award given annually to the faculty since 1995. This year’s recipients are Rashida K. Braggs, Mea Cook, and Bernie Rhie.

Braggs for the integration of her scholarship with her teaching and for mentorship of junior faculty members; Cook for her creativity in her classes and the deliberate approach to inclusive pedagogy; and Rhie for his highly effective teaching and mentoring for junior colleagues through various programs.

Rashida K. Braggs

Braggs is an associate professor of Africana studies and a faculty affiliate in comparative literature. With her background in humanities, performance studies, mass communications, theater studies and English, she consistently introduces a performative lens to African diasporic cultural expressions, from jazz to literature to advertising. In such courses as 13 Ways of Looking at Jazz and Black Migrations: African American Performance at Home and Abroad, she teaches students to explore how performance conveys values, patterns, and negotiations of power in society. Her work has also been published in such journals as Nottingham French StudiesThe Journal of Popular MusicThe James Baldwin Review and The Black Scholar. She received her B.A. from Yale University, her M.S. from Boston University, and her Ph.D. from Northwestern University.

Mea Cook

Cook is the chair and associate professor of geosciences. A marine geologist and paleoceanographer, she studies the ocean’s role in natural climate variability across timescales ranging from decades to hundreds of thousands of years, including natural fluxes of methane and carbon dioxide between the ocean and atmosphere and the role of ocean circulation in ice age cycles. Her research is funded by the National Science Foundation, and she has been published in such journals as Paleoceanography and Deep-Sea Research II. She earned a B.A. in geosciences from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in marine geology and geophysics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution joint program in oceanography.

Bernie Rhie

Rhie is an associate professor in the department of English and will be chair of the department effective July 1. He teaches courses on a variety of topics, including: the concept of the “self” and the representation of subjectivity; the influence of Buddhism on American literature and culture; the history, theory, and practice of meditation; Asian American literature; and philosophical approaches to literary studies. He is also deeply interested in contemplative pedagogy and has been exploring ways to incorporate contemplative practices like mindfulness into his teaching. He received his B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.


Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s approximately 2,000 undergraduate students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. The college is also home to roughly 100 Master’s students enrolled in its renowned graduate programs in Development Economics and the History of Art (the latter offered in collaboration with the Clark Art Institute). Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions on U.S. applicants are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.