William & Mary honors Canuel during 2014 commencement exercises
Dr. Elizabeth Canuel, professor at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, was honored with the Thomas Ashley Graves, Jr. Award for Sustained Excellence in Teaching during William & Mary’s commencement ceremony on Sunday.
The annual award—named for the 23rd President of William & Mary—recognizes a professor or professors who display a strong commitment to the education of students and service to W&M. Canuel was nominated by VIMS Associate Dean of Academic Studies Linda Schaffner and Professor Iris Anderson, and ultimately chosen by W&M President Taylor Reveley as this year’s recipient alongside Professor of Education/Secondary English John Noell Moore.
According to Anderson and Schaffner, Canuel has provided an incredibly fertile education and training ground for her students throughout her more than 25-year career in marine science. Her productivity as a researcher has allowed her to support and nurture 10 doctoral and 5 master’s students in the College of William & Mary’s School of Marine Science at VIMS. Canuel’s students have excelled, winning prestigious awards in recognition of the quality of their scholarship and their potential to conduct transformative research.
Canuel says teaching and mentoring students has been one of the greatest joys of her career, and she considers herself fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with as many students as she has. “One of the most rewarding aspects of being a professor is sharing my experiences, research interests, and curiosity with students,” she says. “I enjoy watching them develop and grow and begin to ask their own questions about marine systems.”
During Sunday’s commencement exercises, W&M President Taylor Reveley said, “Professor Canuel is a motivated, innovative, and highly effective educator, a world-class marine scientist, and a stellar public servant of the College. A dedicated and inspiring, hands-on teacher and mentor, she is known for her passion, knowledge, and genuine concern for students’ success.”
Canuel says she was shocked when she was notified that she would be receiving the award. “The Graves Award is one of the most prestigious awards at W&M and is generally given to senior faculty members who have demonstrated sustained excellence in teaching,” she says. “I’m honored to receive this level of recognition, and to join the ranks of colleagues who have truly distinguished themselves in teaching.”
Canuel’s research focuses on understanding how humans have altered the carbon cycle of the coastal ocean, with a goal of using the past record of change to predict how ecosystems are most likely to respond to current human activities, and thus to develop solutions to maintain or restore ecosystem health.
In regards to her research, Canuel says “Being able to use my research to work towards solutions to environmental problems is one of the things that makes me so passionate about my job.”
Canuel has published more than 70 papers—half of which were co-authored with current or former W&M students. In addition, she is the co-author of a new book in the field of marine biogeochemistry, which allows her to share her knowledge and insights with students worldwide.
Canuel says being part of the process of making new discoveries about the marine environment is exciting and sustains her passion for marine science. “I’m a curious person by nature, so discovery is one of the most appealing aspects of my work,” she says.
In addition to the lives and minds she has touched as a graduate educator, Canuel has been at the forefront of efforts to develop an undergraduate program in marine science at W&M. She was elated as 10 of those students graduated with a minor in marine science during Sunday’s ceremony.
“I’ve really enjoyed introducing W&M undergrads to the field of marine science and having the chance to connect them with opportunities at VIMS and in the larger community of marine science,” she says.
Canuel is known among her colleagues as a strong and steady force for academic excellence in the School of Marine Science and the wider college community, and her courses are sought after by students interested in a holistic, interdisciplinary interpretation of issues pertaining to marine and environmental science.
“I’ve been fortunate to work with many bright and creative students throughout my time at VIMS,” says Canuel. “I consider them family and I tell them they are part my research group for life. In all cases, they learned from me—I learned much from them—and each has added to the fabric of my research program and enriched my life.”
Canuel is the second VIMS professor recognized with the Graves Award since it was first given in1985. VIMS Emeritus Professor John. A. Musick won the award in 1997.