Faculty trio win global excellence awards

The honorees are international experts in digital literacy, biomedical engineering and national security.

Koji Sode, Courtney Rivard and Erinn Whitaker all holding their Global Excellence trophies.
(Left-to-right) Koji Sode, Courtney Rivard and Erinn Whitaker were honored with Faculty Awards for Global Excellence during a May event. (۰ͼ Global Affairs)

۰ͼ Global Affairs honored three ۰ͼ-Chapel Hill faculty members at a May 1 ceremony at the FedEx Global Education Center. , and received Faculty Awards for Global Excellence from Provost Christopher Clemens and Barbara Stephenson, vice provost for global affairs and chief global officer.

“These global partnerships are deepened by peer-to-peer relationships that are developed by faculty,” Clemens said. “Thanks to these opportunities, our graduates will be able to lead and address complicated global challenges, working across disciplines and across the globe.”

Read about this year’s winners below.

Courtney Rivard

Rivard directs the Digital Literacy and Communications Lab and is an assistant professor in the College of Arts and Sciences’ English and comparative literature department and the ۰ͼ School of Data Science and Society.

Her multiple roles allow her “to see the connections between people that they might not see,” she said. “I see it as my greatest gift that I get to tie the strings together and help other faculty who are interested in developing .”

Rivard led international collaborations on eating disorders with Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen in Germany and on game theory with King’s College London in England. In 2021, she received a Global Partnership Award for the Tübingen program. Her course on game theory and design led to King’s College London’s co-sponsorship of the Games Studies and Ludic Teaching symposium this summer.

“Only by comparing problems in more than one country can we really seek to understand an issue because everything is interconnected in our global world today,” she said.

Koji Sode

Sode is the William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor in the ۰ͼ-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University joint biomedical engineering department.

With more than 30 years of experience in academia in Japan before joining Carolina’s faculty in 2018, Sode sees himself as a bridge between Japan and the U.S. in both science and research communication.

“I’m not leaving you; I’m connecting you,” he tells his former Japanese students.

He created an extensive pipeline of Carolina students who study in the labs of Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, where he holds a faculty appointment, and he works closely with Nagoya University and Waseda University and welcomes Japanese students to his lab in North Carolina.

Last year, he took part in a , where he introduced his colleagues to representatives in government, academia and his favorite ramen restaurant. North Carolina provides a “fantastic research environment” because it is cooperative, he said.

Erinn Whitaker

A former senior analyst for the CIA and U.S. State Department, Whitaker is a professor of the practice in the College of Arts and Sciences’ curriculum in peace, war and defense.

Whitaker uses her extensive experience in national security to help her students gain real-world skills. In partnership with the , Whitaker creates simulations in her classes, like a mock National Security Council meeting in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“Even if students decide that they don’t want to be a policymaker, they understand what the national security architecture looks like by trying it out themselves,” she said. “Bringing this approach of hands-on learning makes it more tangible for students.”

She also invites people currently working in national security to speak on campus and is faculty adviser for the student-led Women in National Security. She is the primary investigator for both the with Nagoya University in Japan and the  with the University of Helsinki in Finland.