Williams College Awards Three Faculty Members with Nelson Bushnell '20 Prize

Media contact: Noelle Lemoine, communications assistant; tele: (413) 597-4277; email: [email protected]

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., July 6, 2017—Three faculty members at Williams College have been recognized for excellence in teaching and writing. Lois Banta (biology), Glenn Gordinier (history), and Li Yu (Chinese) are the recipients of the Nelson Bushnell ’20 Prize, an award given annually to the faculty since 1995.

Banta was noted for her especially “collaborative, interdisciplinary, experiential, and rigorous” coursework, Gordinier for his exceptional cultivation of the Williams-Mystic pedagogical mission, and Yu for her proliferation of the intermediate Chinese sequence and development of the first tutorial taught in Chinese.

Lois Banta

Banta, professor of biology, specializes in microbiology, genomics, and infectious disease as well as molecular cell biology. Her research, focusing on interactions between the soil bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens and its host plants, has been funded by six grants from the National Science Foundation totaling $1.7 million. More than 120 undergraduates, including 70 honors thesis students, have contributed to this research. As current Gaudino Scholar, Banta has initiated campus programming around the question “At What Cost?” and led students in a collaboration with the Estonian Institute of Historical Memory. She holds a B.A. from Johns Hopkins University, a Ph.D. from California Institute of Technology, and was a postdoctoral fellow at University of Pennsylvania.

Glenn Gordinier

Gordinier, associate professor of history at Williams-Mystic and the Robert G. Albion Historian at Mystic Seaport, works principally around maritime culture and issues of race and diversity. His publications include The Rockets’ Red Glare: the War of 1812 and Connecticut, 2012; Surfing Cold Water: A New Englander’s Off-Season Obsession, 2012; and Gender, Race, Ethnicity and Power in Maritime America, 2008. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut, where he serves as a Visiting Scholar of History. In addition, he has been a Smithsonian Institution lecturer and visiting lecturer at Trinity College and Connecticut College. Serving as co-director of Frank C. Munson Institute of American Maritime Studies at Mystic Seaport, Gordinier is able to interface directly with students while retaining the ability to do what he loves—surf.

Li Yu

Yu, chair of Asian Studies and associate professor of Chinese, is interested in how Chinese language and culture can be taught effectively in the American classroom. She is committed to helping learners achieve proficiency in Chinese and function successfully in Chinese culture. Her work at the college seeks to open the world up to students, both historically and presently. To that end, her tutorial “Old Shanghai, New Shanghai” asks students to engage in conceptions of “modernity” and “regional identity” and critically examine the city and its people through the lens of culture studies. Beyond the Chinese language classroom, she researches on the history of reading in late imperial China and is an experienced trainer of foreign language teachers. She has been published in more than a dozen book chapters and peer-reviewed journals. She holds a B.A. from East China Normal University (Shangai, China), an M.A. in Chinese language pedagogy as well as a Ph.D. in Chinese language pedagogy and cultural history from the Ohio State University.


Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s 2,000 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. 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.