2023 CAS Distinguished Research Awards (CASDRA)

Each year the pool of candidates for the College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Research Award (CASDRA) consists of those faculty members who are nominated for the Alumni Association for Distinguished Research or Creative Achievement (AADRACA) and who are not selected for an AADRACA that year. There are four recipients this year (Humanities, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences and Engaged Scholarship).

Donal Harris, Associate Professor, Department of EnglishDonal Harris, Associate Professor, Department of English

Dr. Harris joined the faculty at the University of Memphis in 2013. He is an associate professor and Joseph Orgill Chair of Engaged Scholarship in the Department of English. For the last five years, he also has served as director of the Marcus W. Orr Center for the Humanities.

Donal is a literary historian specializing in U.S. fiction from the Civil War until the present, particularly the relationship between American literature and social institutions such as schools, libraries, and the press. He is the author of On Company Time: American Modernism in the Big Magazines (Columbia University Press, 2016) and essays in PMLAModern Language Quarterly, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, among other venues. 

Since 2021, his primary research project has been Citizens of Cossitt, a collaboration with Memphis Public Library that provides a multi-media history of public libraries in Memphis. The joint work of librarians, archivists, graduate and undergraduate students, and library patrons, Citizens creates new digital collections, exhibitions, and learning tools for Dig Memphis, the digital branch of the Memphis Public Library, that center on the public library as a site of civil rights activity. So far, the research team has collected, digitized, and publicly exhibited over 500 images and documents (available here); created two new digital repositories and research guides; preserved and made available over 50 hours of oral histories related to Memphis neighborhoods from the Everett Cook Oral History Collection and written over 100 public history posts for @digmemphishistory, the Instagram account for MPL’s digital branch.

He has also worked closely on cultural programming at several organizations in Memphis, including Indie Memphis, the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, and Clayborn Temple. In 2019, he curated the exhibit Painted Words: Collaborations in Print, 1869-1969 for the Brooks Museum of Art. The art installation Student Movements, co-created with students and faculty from Crosstown High School, will open at Crosstown Arts in May 2024.

His work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Mellon Foundation, the Remembering George Riley at MLK50 Fund, and the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Memphis.

Marcus Wicker, Associate Professor, Department of EnglishHumanities
Marcus Wicker, Associate Professor, Department of English

Dr. Wicker was born in Ann Arbor and raised in Ypsilanti, Michigan. He is the author of Silencer (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017)—winner of the Society of Midland Authors Award—and Maybe the Saddest Thing (Harper Perennial, 2012), selected by D.A. Powell for the National Poetry Series. A 2023 - 2024 Harvard Radcliffe Institute Fellow, his honors include a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship, the Poetry Society of America’s Lyric Poetry Award, a Pushcart Prize, and Ruth Lilly Fellowship, as well as fellowships from The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown,  Cave Canem, and the Tennessee Arts Commission. Wicker’s poems have appeared in The Nation, The New Republic, The Atlantic, Oxford American, and Poetry Magazine. 

During his Summer Research Stimulus trip, Wicker went to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA where he cataloged exhibits from the What Is Left Unspoken, Love exhibit, in order to write ekphrastic poems about the artwork. Summer Research Stimulus trip. He is a First Horizons Foundation Distinguished Associate Professor at the University of Memphis, where he teaches in the MFA program.

Dan Larsen, Professor, Department of Earth SciencesNatural Sciences
Daniel Larsen, Professor, Department of Earth Sciences

Dr. Larsen uses a variety of geologic tools and technology to solve problems in hydrogeology as well as the sedimentary and tectonic records of the Earth. Increasing our understanding of the geology and hydrogeology of water resources in Memphis and western Tennessee is one of his major research focuses, along with colleagues from the Center for Applied Earth Science and Engineering Research (CAESER). 

Other major research areas in the past few years have included understanding ancient lake deposits in the southwestern United States, Quaternary deposits and neotectonics within the south-central U.S., and the roles of tectonic faults and fractures on groundwater availability. In his words, "I feel myself fortunate to pursue a career similar to a perpetual graduate student (or curious kid in the candy store!), always learning some new technique or approach to solving problems and investigating our Earth."


Dr. James P. Whelan, Professor, Department of PsychologySOCIAL SCIENCES
James P. Whelan, Professor, Department of Psychology

Dr. Whelan is a Professor of Psychology with a career at the UofM that has spanned over three decades he is also a University alum. In 2020, Whelan transitioned out of the role as Director of the Psychological Services Center to allow greater focus on his research and treatment of gambling problems. As the Executive Director of the Tennessee Institute for Gambling & Education & Research (TIGER), Whelan has led his research team in securing over $5.5 million in external funding focused on gambling treatment. TIGER currently operates two treatment centers in East and West Tennessee. The Gambling Clinic has helped approximately 1,400 individuals from Tennessee and the mid-South with their gambling problems. The Gambling Clinic has a national reputation as the longest continually operating gambling-focused treatment program in the country and is recognized for its integration of treatment and research.

Dr. Whelan has published extensively on a variety of critical questions related to gambling disorder. His research includes the development of measurement tools, prevention, assessment, and treatment for gambling disorder. He has served on the editorial board for major gambling and addiction peer reviewed journals, and he is frequently invited to speak at international gambling research conferences and training conferences for regional addiction provider groups. Whelan’s prevention work, responsible gambling, has included presentations to various state and national legislative groups, regulatory bodies, major US gambling companies, and the US Chamber of Commerce. Most recently, he was the recipient of the 2022 Scientific Achievement Award from the International Center for Responsible Gambling.

Whelan has had a long history of involvement in professional ethics. He served on several professional ethics committees and six years on the Tennessee Board of Examiners in Psychology, including two years as Board Chair. Since 2014, he has chaired the University of Memphis’ Institutional Review Board.