William & Mary honors Professor Linda Schaffner with the Thomas Jefferson Award

  • Professor Linda Schaffner
    Professor Linda Schaffner     Stephen Salpukas
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Each year, William & Mary bestows the Thomas Jefferson Award on a member of the William & Mary family for significant service through his or her personal activities, influence and leadership. School of Marine Science Professor Linda Schaffner is this year's winner.

Carl Friedrichs, the Glucksman Professor of Marine Science, wrote that colleague Linda Schaffner is deserving of the Thomas Jefferson Award because her “service to the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences (VIMS) and William & Mary embodies the true essence” of the award.

A former winner of W&M’s Thomas Jefferson Teaching Prize and the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Outstanding Faculty Award, how has Schaffner met that high standard of “significant service through her personal activities, influence and leadership”?

For Schaffner, professor of marine science and past associate dean for academic affairs at VIMS, it means leading the development of new curricula and strengthening ties with Arts & Sciences and the law and business schools to provide greater access to classes and professional development opportunities across the university.

It means strengthening and directing one of the longest running National Science Foundation-supported (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduate Programs in the nation, with a focus on introducing diverse students to marine science and to William & Mary.

It means a focus on student health, wellness and sense of belonging, evidenced by bringing a health counselor to the VIMS campus regularly for free consultations and for overseeing and championing the creation of the first-ever campus center on the VIMS campus.

“I can’t think of anyone who has been a more steadfast champion for students,” wrote Ginger Ambler, senior vice president for student affairs and public safety. The counseling initiative “is but one powerful example of the collaborative spirit Linda brings to her work, and the impact of her leadership on the student experience,” Ambler added.

“Within her school, across our campus and in her field, she is a leader of exceptional accomplishment and integrity.”

For Schaffner, embodying the Jefferson Award means creating the NSF-funded program for Minority Scholars in Ocean Sciences at VIMS, in collaboration with Old Dominion University and Hampton University.

It means creating and facilitating formal mentorship training for VIMS faculty and leading the school’s semiannual ‘Writing Bootcamp’ for students eight times in the last eight years. It means teaching 14 courses in the last decade.

It even means playful, fun things such as initiating the practice of having VIMS students wear baseball caps when they march through Wren portico at Convocation.

It means helping a junior colleague obtain a $2.3-million NSF grant to study how muddy sediments move around in coastal ecosystems.

“She has been a member of the W&M community for more than four decades, first as a student, then as a faculty member and administrator, producing science that has had a tremendous impact on coastal communities in the Commonwealth and beyond, training and educating students and the next generation of scientific leaders,” wrote Derek Aday, dean & director of VIMS.

Mark Luckenbach, professor and associate dean of research & advisory services at VIMS, wrote, “Having worked with Linda for 38-plus years, I can unequivocally state that over that time, no other individual has poured more of their heart and soul into the institute.”

Professor Courtney Harris, chair of the coastal & ocean processes section, explains that Linda’s “service to William & Mary and VIMS has gone ‘above and beyond’ in so many categories that it would be exhaustive to list them all.”

She is correct, but one can try using a few statistics.

  • $4.8 million: the amount of fellowship or grant money Schaffner has received as lead principal investigator
  • 11: The number of times Schaffner has served as the major advisor for graduate students seeking master’s or Ph.D. degrees
  • 50: The number of times Schaffner has served on student thesis or dissertation advisory committees
  • 23: The number of undergraduates she has mentored for summer or academic year research experiences
  • 38:The number refereed publications Schaffner has authored or co-authored
  • 4,000+: The number of citations her publications have garnered

The totality of those achievements has resulted in what Schaffner describes as “a rich and joyful life.”

“I am grateful … [to be] a member of the greater William & Mary community and for all of the opportunities my tenure as a faculty member has provided,” she said. “I really had it all during my career – from access to the Chesapeake Bay where I did much of my research, to access to phenomenal students who always made me want to learn more and teach better.

“I hope that during my time as a member of the W&M community, I’ve done my part to help ensure that we will continue to provide the quality education and mentoring needed to develop marine science leaders who are ready and able to address the most pressing issues of what undoubtedly will be a complex future.”

Schaffner will be recognized at William & Mary’s Charter Day ceremony on Feb. 9 for her outstanding achievements and contributions to the community. In addition to being recognized during Charter Day, she will be celebrated during a special ceremony on Feb. 5 at 4 p.m. in Miller Hall’s Brinkley Commons room.