Alongside Charlotte Gordon and John Kelley, last spring Endicott named Vitaly Kozyrev and Lara Salahi Distinguished Professors. But behind the impressive title is so much more.
“At Endicott, we attract faculty whose scholarship reaches out into the world and makes a tremendous impact. The distinguished professorship provides these individuals with a sustained period of time to focus on their unique field of study,” said Provost Sara Quay.
Each of the College’s four current Distinguished Professors was selected by a committee and given three-year terms to dive deep into innovative pursuits while continuing to teach a reduced course load.
Their networks beyond the Nest pave the way for powerful student connections following graduation and put Endicott on the map.
News at the Nest recently spoke to the four Distinguished Professors about their passions for teaching and pushing real-world boundaries in their respective fields.
When he’s not teaching, newly named Distinguished Professor Vitaly Kozyrev might be found in Singapore supporting a delegation of peacemakers helping officials mediate relations between North Korea and the U.S.
Or, he could be drafting his forthcoming book, The New Cold War at Sea, co-authored with Lyle J. Goldstein and published by the Naval Institute Press. Kozyrev said it’s “an urgent look at the competition between Russia, China, and the United States at sea,” but, ultimately, it reimagines how a possible Russia-China alliance could shake up the world order and the implications for America.
The Distinguished Professor of Political Science and International Studies grew up in the post-totalitarian Soviet Union, proving a knack for Chinese language from age 12. His Ph.D. studies focused on the complexities of China’s modernization, and Kozyrev worked as a translator through school—traveling with delegations of diplomats through Asian capitals and observing conflict, diplomacy, and peacemaking firsthand.
Rather than become a politician, he discovered a passion for research and teaching. He was drawn to Endicott for its remarkable interdisciplinary collaborations between faculty and the real-world experiences students receive.
Known for his courses on American foreign policy, international conflict, and comparative political models, Kozyrev said he’s been paid the ultimate compliment by young alumni: “Former students come up to me at homecoming or reunions and tell me that they read The New York Times because of my classes. To be able to express curiosity and ask questions not only about politics, but life in general, is what I hope they take away.”
“I was just floored by this award,” admitted Lara Salahi, the College’s newest Distinguished Professor of Broadcast and Digital Journalism. “A few colleagues nudged me to apply but there is so much talent among Endicott faculty that I thought there was no way. But you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, right?”
Salahi, who is also a working journalist and author, has learned to square up her shots—and she teaches her students how to aim for their targets, too.
She was part of the Boston Globe newsroom awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for their tenacious coverage of the Boston Marathon Bombing. In 2018, she and computational geneticist Pardis Sabeti co-authored Outbreak Culture: The Ebola Crisis and the Next Epidemic.
Last year, she dug into long-form, heavy investigative journalism, with a three-part feature in The War Horse examining why suicide rates were uncommonly high in a Massachusetts National Guard infantry battalion that deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 and what support needs to be offered to prevent more losses of life in the future.
The editorial process for that body of work was both grueling and coincided with Salahi teaching a feature writing course last year. As her students grappled with researching, writing, and fact-checking their first features, Salahi grappled with editing her work, too.
“I think students appreciate having an instructor who can not only teach concepts but also continues to work in the field,” she said. “They saw that not only are they working on stories that are getting published, but they see how much work and heart goes into the process. Together, both students and professor polished and wrapped their stories in real-time.
With the additional time her new Distinguished Professorship offers, Salahi is bent on establishing a news service that operates out of Endicott and partners student journalists with local news outlets—a move sure to help students get a leg up in the media industry while helping their community read stories that matter. “I’m also writing a book examining business models that can help revive and sustain local news,” she added.
One 2022 Jeopardy! clue read, “Feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, who died shortly after giving birth, and this daughter, are the subject of Romantic Outlaws.”
Who is Mary Shelley?
And also, who is Charlotte Gordon—National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author of Romantic Outlaws—and Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Endicott College?
Gordon is a leading scholar on the figures who built the 18th-19th century Romantic movement, a role that has claimed decades of painstaking research and writing. She also recently received a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant to research and write a group biography on four women reformers. But connecting with her undergraduate students and making literature stand for something in their lives is of equal importance to her. Gordon is known and respected for teaching “Early American Literature” each fall—with a rigorous syllabus she updates annually.
“The most important thing I can do in the classroom is hear students’ lived experiences. It’s my job to help them make connections to very old writers, to see what they might have in common with them–whether it’s what they hate or admire,” she said.
Gordon doesn’t expect all of her students to pursue an English degree—but she does hope that her classes will help each student “read and understand any text and think for themselves.”
Being a Distinguished Professor offers Gordon the time and space she needs to research her books and occupy the multifaceted minds of her protagonists, while also putting her whole self into teaching.
Each book takes years to write—a process that would prove impossible with just a semester’s length sabbatical.
“I think it’s good for our students to see that practitioners are also teaching them—and the College has given me the space to become one,” she said from the desk where she’s currently pouring herself into her NEH project.
“It’s about four 19th-century women activists who dedicated themselves to overturning slavery and fighting for women’s rights,” Gordon shared. “I’m writing books that I hope will make a difference in the world.”
John KelleyDistinguished Professor of Psychology John Kelley has spent 20 years delving into the placebo effect in medicine and psychiatry. “The placebo effect is an oxymoron: it is the effect of something that has no effect,” he likes to say.
A licensed clinical psychologist, Kelley also serves as Deputy Director of the Program in Placebo Studies & the Therapeutic Encounter at Harvard Medical School where he is also a Lecturer on Medicine.
He and his colleagues have run dozens of randomized clinical trials to determine the impact of placebos and empathetic healthcare interventions in addition to or separate from standard medical treatments.
“The studies have shown dramatic placebo effects in a wide variety of medical conditions, including asthma, chronic pain, dental pain, depression, dermatological conditions, gastrointestinal disorders, and migraine headaches,” Kelley explained.
He is also the author or co-author of more than 75 peer-reviewed articles, which have garnered more than 9,000 citations in the medical literature.
The way that Kelley relates to students is as detail-oriented and thoughtful as the way he runs the program at Harvard. “I care a lot about helping my students understand difficult concepts, particularly in statistics,” he said. “I empathize with them when they’re not getting it. Statistics isn’t easy and I try to communicate my enthusiasm for the subject as a wonderful tool that can help us learn about how the world works.”
When students attend office hours, Kelley tries to get to know them on a human-to-human level before even jumping into offering support with problem sets. “I remember my own first semester of college and it was intimidating,” he reflected. This humility extends to the way he advises students too: “I teach Senior Thesis and sometimes my students educate me about new topics. The reason that I keep teaching is that I’m constantly learning something new.”
Kelley added: “The great thing about the College is how supportive they are of faculty trying to maintain a research program. My students love to ask questions about my placebo research. I can bring my research findings into my classes and provide my students with specific details about how research is conducted.”