Each year, Dean Theresa Lee and members of her cabinet, with help from department heads, recognize faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences for their excellence in teaching, research and creative activity, and lifetime achievements.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, however, we were unable to host the annual awards banquet in-person. Each faculty member received a plaque and congratulations from the dean. We posted a video to the college YouTube channel here, which features each faculty award winner.
Derek Alderman, professor and interim head of the Department of Geography, received the Lorayne W. Lester Award, which recognizes a faculty member or exempt staff member who has demonstrated outstanding service through research, outreach, and/or administrative, teaching, or advising services to the college, the state, our local community, or beyond.
Alderman joined the geography department in 2012 as head and worked hard to advertise and modernize the curriculum for undergraduates, which allowed the department to increase in size dramatically. During his five years as head, he also worked successfully to diversify the faculty and student population. During these years he was also elected president of the American Association of Geographers, after successfully serving as a chair of the association’s publications committee, the regional southeast councilor, and president of the southeast region.
Alderman’s research brings him many opportunities to inform the public about issues related to American Civil Rights movement and southern culture more broadly. Much of his work focuses on the histories, memory-work, commemorative activism, and place-making efforts of African Americans as they assert and claim civil rights, their right to belong with public spaces, and the power to remember the past and shape the American landscape on their own terms. In particular, his interests focus on critical place name studies and using cultural struggles over the naming and renaming of streets, schools, parks, and other public spaces as important lens for understanding the unresolved place of race, memory, and identity in America.
“I am grateful and humbled to receive the Lorayne Lester award from our college, which is filled with many inspiring servant-leaders,” Alderman said. “Since coming to UT in 2012, I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to work with others to grow and maintain departmental health, advocate for national professional organizations, and engage in public outreach and partnership building. Service, for me, is about being responsive to the needs and well-being of other people—to think and act beyond oneself. More than simply a category of annual evaluation, service is the lifeblood of the university and key to the ethics of care we owe to ourselves and wider communities.”
He is a devoted scholar-teacher who enjoys working and publishing with students, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. He is also committed to conducting critical public scholarship that engages, informs, and helps the news media, government officials, community activists and organizations, and the broader citizenry. Most recently, Alderman has been involved in three major research efforts funded by NSF that involved researchers from universities across the country collecting and analyzing data related to the struggle for freedom from several different perspectives. He continues to serve beyond expectations by agreeing to step back into the role of interim head for geography this year when there was a last minute change within the unit leadership.