As part of William & Mary’s annual Charter Day commemoration of its founding in 1693 by royal charter, the university takes the opportunity to present several awards for outstanding contributions to the W&M community by its students, alumni and faculty members.
The recipients of the 2023 awards will be recognized during the Feb. 10 Charter Day ceremony in Kaplan Arena. They include:
- Thomas Jefferson Award: Ron Sims, Floyd Dewey Gottwald Sr. Professor of Business Administration
- Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award: Stacy Kern-Scheerer, director of clinical programs, director of Immigration Clinic, clinical associate professor of law
- Thomas Jefferson Prize in Natural Philosophy: Yuxin Qin ’23
- James Monroe Prize in Civic Leadership: Sophia Haile ’23
These award winners will be celebrated and 2023 Plumeri Faculty Award recipients announced during a ceremony on Feb. 2 at 4 p.m. in Miller Hall, Brinkley Commons.
This year’s Charter Day ceremony, which begins at 4 p.m., will mark the university’s 330th “birthday.”
Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield will serve as keynote speaker. She will also receive an honorary degree at the event, along with Barbara “Bobbie” Berkeley Ukrop ’61, a former member of the Board of Visitors and William & Mary Foundation and longtime advocate for education in Virginia.
Reaching out to others at every opportunity, Ronald Sims has not only taught for 35-plus years at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business, he also has influenced countless people around him through mentoring and relationship-building while tirelessly advocating for diversity, equity and inclusion.
Sims is the recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Award, which is given annually to a member of the William & Mary faculty for “significant service through their personal activities, influence and leadership.” It is the highest honor given by the university to a faculty member.
Others describe Sims as the personification of these attributes.
“Being recognized as the 2023 Thomas Jefferson Award recipient is an important validation of my obligation to always to try to ‘pay it forward’ in ways that others do and have done for me throughout my academic career and life,” Sims said.
Early in life, he read in a local newspaper the quote: “Do unto others as if you were others.”
“To the best of my ability, I have tried to do that by trying not to forget how often others offered me encouragement, words of wisdom, a kind word or simply in their own way through their actions made it clear: I see you, and I’ll do what I can to help,” Sims said. “That’s been my experience at William & Mary in trying to be as selfless as others have been with me.”
Sims retired as a lieutenant colonel from the U.S. Army Reserves in 1997 after 24 years of active and reserve service. At the business school, he teaches leadership, change management, human resources management and business ethics. Researching in these areas as well as employee training, management and leadership development, and cyber-security resilience, he is the author or co-author of 42 books, 84 chapters and more than 90 articles that have appeared in a wide variety of scholarly and practitioner journals.
Sims “has been an active leader and change agent both for the university and for the business school,” according to a letter supporting his nomination. Arriving at W&M in 1986, he helped found W&M’s Black Faculty and Staff Forum, becoming its first president in 1987 and continuing as an executive board member through 1993. He also advocated for a business school affirmative action committee to create a more inclusive faculty and served on the committee to advance its mission.
Sims continued that early work advocating for female and Black faculty members throughout his time at W&M, including working to ensure equity in compensation practices on the campus Salary and Equity Committee in 1995 and the Lead Design Team for the university’s new compensation and classification system in 2007. He helped to develop campus leaders through the design and delivery of the William & Mary Leadership Institute in 2012 and its Supervisor’s Institute in 2014-2018, as well as by making ongoing contributions to the business school’s current diversity task force and initiatives.
“Long before these topics were trendy, Ron has been speaking uncomfortable truths, pointing out unequal treatment and advancing equity,” a nominator wrote. “The esteem Ron Sims is held in and his influence on campus is clearly visible in the range of senior leadership search committees he has been invited to serve on or chair.”
Among his roles that shaped W&M’s academic and administrative leadership were dean of Arts & Sciences in 1996, the business school dean in 1989 and again in 1997, director of human resources management in 2001, vice president of development in 2006 and provost search committee member in 2007-2009.
Much less visible but equally, if not more significant, are Sims’ personal service activities, specifically the informal mentoring work he has quietly provided behind the scenes to faculty, staff and students, according to a nominator.
“Mentoring and checking in on faculty members, keeping up with what’s going on professionally and personally with them; I know he has done the same for countless other faculty not in the Organizational Behavior area, or even in the business school; he has done this for staff, and he has done this for students,” a nominator wrote. “The pattern is the same. He always engages with what they are trying to accomplish, gives his time, the resources he can access and follows up. And, invariably, he responds to expressions of gratitude with the exhortation that they find ways to ‘pay it forward’ by mentoring and opening doors for others.”
Stacy Kern-Scheerer is known for enhancing each area of the Law School that she touches with her teaching. These include the classroom, Immigration Clinic, curriculum offerings and delivery, and, most of all, her students.
“She is the epitome of a dedicated and passionate teacher, who has unwavering support for her students and tirelessly advocates for the clients of the William & Mary Law School Immigration Clinic,” a nominator wrote.
Kern-Scheerer is the recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award, which “recognizes a teaching member of the William & Mary community who has demonstrated, through concern as a teacher and through character and influence, the inspiration and stimulation of learning to the betterment of the individual and society as exemplified by Thomas Jefferson.”
Kern-Scheerer is a role model and mentor for students as they decide how best to use their law degrees for the good of others in the community.
“Words cannot express how honored I feel to receive the Jefferson Teaching Award,” Kern-Scheerer said. “When I first began teaching, I could not have imagined the extraordinary sense of joy, pride and excitement I have as I’ve watched my students grow, graduate and go on to do incredible things in this world. Through teaching I, too, have grown immensely as a person, and I am filled with gratitude to be able to do what I love.”
She has contributed to the breadth of the law school curriculum, taught extra courses and, during the COVID-19 lockdown, led a committee to help faculty and administrators determine how to successfully deliver course material. Kern-Scheerer has taught courses on immigration law, legal writing, health law and policy, food and drug law and the opioid crisis. She has also served as assistant director of the Legal Practice Program. Outside of the law school, Kern-Scheerer has demonstrated her commitment to civic engagement through her recent election to Williamsburg City Council.
She is most lauded for her passionate leadership as founding director of the Immigration Clinic, where she trains and supervises clinic students representing noncitizens in the greater Hampton Roads community seeking humanitarian forms of relief. She and the students under her supervision represent immigrant victims of crime, domestic violence and human trafficking, as well as immigrants seeking asylum, DACA holders and individuals applying for naturalization.
“She saw a need for something new: an immigration clinic to provide more hands-on learning opportunities for our students and to serve the community,” a nominator wrote. “Since Stacy created it in fall 2019, our immigration clinic has been thriving, winning its first asylum case and making news by assisting Afghan refugees with visa and residency applications.”
The impact Kern-Scheerer makes on not just the clients but also the students in the immigration clinic “is nothing short of life changing,” a nominator wrote. For example, one student wrote about his experience on the immigration student blog: “I thought the case was a perfect example of the power of having an attorney. … Without us, our clients would have walked into the hearing unaware of their options, would have likely lost their case, and would have likely been deported.”
Students having such a tremendous experience “comes directly from Stacy’s passion, perseverance, and tremendous personal character,” according to a nominator.
Kern-Scheerer has previously won the law school’s highest teaching awards — the Walter L. Williams, Jr. Teaching Award twice and the McGlothlin Teaching Award — and was appointed as Kelly Professor for Teaching Excellence. Effusive student comments “speak to her excellence, dedication and capacity to inspire,” a nominator wrote.
“I always tell my students to remember that they are human beings before they are lawyers. I try to instill in my students that the skills they are learning in my classes — how to discern and ask critical questions, how to truly listen to clients and colleagues, how to build trust with clients and community partners, how to use your abilities to advocate for others, how to recover from mistakes and admit when you need help, how to learn to take care of yourself – these are skills that transcend a profession and apply to the full measure of how we each operate in the world, not just at work,” Kern-Scheerer said.
“I strive to teach my students these skills not just through my words, but through my actions. I am so thankful to my colleagues and students for trusting in me over the years, and I am grateful for this award.”
Yuxin Qin ’23
Yuxin Qin ’23 has made exceptional academic achievements while becoming a well-rounded student. A double major in mathematics and studio art, Qin is poised to begin her career as an actuary doing statistical analysis.
“Being on my own here was very challenging at first, but with the support from my family, friends, classmates and professors, I have been taking small but invaluable steps towards my goals,” Qin said of arriving from her native China.
Qin is the recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Prize in Natural Philosophy, which is awarded annually to an undergraduate student “who has demonstrated excellence in the sciences. The award honors the relationship that Mr. Jefferson enjoyed with Professor William Small, his William & Mary tutor in mathematics and natural sciences.”
“Yuxin is an exceptional student who has conducted high-quality research as an undergraduate and achieved an unusually long list of academic accomplishments during her time at William & Mary,” wrote a nominator.
Qin has a 4.0 grade point average, excelled on exams required for actuary certification and published the paper “The Probability Mass Function of the Kaplan–Meier Product–Limit Estimator” along with two faculty advisors in The American Statistician, which is a top 10 statistical journal. It’s considered by faculty to be groundbreaking research that will lead to additional papers.
Qin was named a finalist in the Institute for Operations Research and Management Science Undergraduate Operations Research Prize competition and was invited to Indianapolis to present her research last year. After an actuarial internship with Willis Towers Watson last summer, she was offered a permanent position with the firm, which she has accepted.
“Yuxin is talented in a wide range of skills required for her profession: algorithm development, coding, probability modeling, statistical methods and mathematical depth,” a nominator wrote. “She is strong in all of these domains and is able to integrate them when working on a particular problem.”
Qin was described as “soft spoken, humble, efficient and kind,” as well as having a good sense of humor and excellent communication skills.
She has presented her art on campus, worked as a teaching assistant grading for the master’s in business analytics linear algebra boot camp in the business school and as a grader for Advanced Linear Algebra in the mathematics department, as well as earning a black belt in karate last year.
“As I joined the mathematics department at William & Mary, I was so lucky to have a group of such amazing and inspiring professors who helped me grow so much,” Qin said. “They gave me directions on research project and publications; they committed to building a new track, financial engineering and actuarial science, within the math major, which is the track that I am currently devoting all my energy to. And they fought for various opportunities for me to demonstrate my abilities. I couldn’t appreciate them more for everything I’ve learned here, and I’m excited to learn and explore more.
“The same goes to the art and art history department. William & Mary’s curriculum allowed me to explore my interest in two completely different areas. All the art students from my year form such a tight community, where we grow so fast with reflections and group critiques. Most of my semester schedules consist of two math classes and two art classes, which is really balanced and allows me to switch between logical thinking and creative thinking constantly.”
Sophia Haile ’23
Fostering a more inclusive community for students studying science has resulted from efforts Sophia Haile ’23 made while pursuing her chemistry major.
“I am sincerely honored to have been selected as the recipient of this award,” Haile said. “The mere fact that I was even considered for this award was an honor. But to be the recipient of such distinction fills me with wonderful feelings of gratitude.
“Now in my fourth year, as I prepare to leave this campus, I hope to continue to serve up to this prize’s name moving forward.”
Haile is the recipient of the James Monroe Prize in Civic Leadership, which is awarded annually to a student “who has shown sustained leadership of an unusual quality, leadership combined with initiative, character and an unfailing commitment to leveraging the assets of the William & Mary community to address the needs of our society.”
She is “an extraordinary student with academic excellence who is a beloved leader in our community, who drives forward despite challenges, who overcomes adversity and inspires others to follow her lead for the greater cause,” a nominator wrote. “This is Sophia’s legacy at W&M, to normalize students of color in STEM, to make sure that students of color have a sense of inclusion and belonging here and an inspired cohort of fellow students of all races and identities who will always be there for one another and our community.”
After Senior Lecturer of Chemistry Dana Lashley and Haile revived W&M’s chapter of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers post-COVID, Haile continued the leadership role she took on in 2020 by serving as its president for the past year. Organizing outreach events to promote the group’s pillars of community, diversity and professional development, Haile and its members worked to create a space for underrepresented students to recognize their potential in chemistry and other closely related disciplines. These included hosting an event for more than 100 high students for on-campus activities.
Haile is one of two student representatives on the chemistry department’s Diversity, Outreach and Publicity Committee, where one of her tasks was to develop a mentorship program for students enrolled in the 120-person introductory chemistry courses.
Haile is a member of the African Cultural Society and a peer consultant at the Writing Resources Center. She used her Andrew W. Mellon summer research grant to assist Professor Vivian Hamilton in the law school with her research project regarding the perception and treatment of Black adolescents in the criminal justice and education system.
Though she has enjoyed her time at W&M, her experiences attending several hundred-person lectures as one of only a few Black students have sparked feelings of imposter syndrome, according to Haile. For her and other underrepresented students, groups like the NOBCChE serve as places of comfort, and they were fortunate to have Lashley establish the chapter in 2018, she added.
“It is my hope that my advocacy has fostered an inclusive environment, bridged the gap between different communities and empowered individuals to reach their full potential,” Haile said.
“This work has been and always will be community-based. This is why I’m thankful NOBCChE managed to organize our first large-scale outreach event since the start of the pandemic this past fall when we hosted students from an underrepresented Virginia Beach high school.”
Jennifer L. Williams, Communications Specialist