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Helen Rizzo

Associate Professor
Department of Sociology, Egyptology and Anthropology (SAPE)

Second Place Recipient of the Merit Award for Excellence in Academic Service 2020-2021

Helen Rizzo joined AUC in 2001. She has twice been chair of SAPE, and her effectiveness in managing a large, diverse, and the evolving department has been acknowledged by her colleagues and various members of the AUC administration. The dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (HUSS) commented that she had done an excellent job representing the needs of her department and initiated a number of discussions in the HUSS Council which were extremely important for all HUSS departments. Rizzo has consistently shown leadership and collegiality at a very high level. Evidence of this collegiality and her overall good citizenship is found in the fact that Rizzo has been the “external member” of a large number of committees formed by other departments inside and outside HUSS.

Very soon after joining AUC, she was made head of the sociology unit within SAPE, which involved curriculum review, course scheduling, coordinating graduate course requirements, evaluating adjunct faculty, participating in search committees, preparing for accreditation, updating governance, etc. When she was made the graduate program director, she made significant improvements in the structure of SAPE’s graduate programs. Beyond the normal duties of this position, she gave workshops to graduate students applying for AUC support grants and applying for PhD programs. She also served on graduate student fellowship selection committees, including Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship, Nadhmi Auchi Young Arab Leaders Fellowship, Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Makhtoum Pioneers, African Fellowship, International Graduate Fellowship, Graduate Merit Fellowship, and University Fellowship. She applied for and received a Faculty Support Workshop Grant to fund a one-day graduate student conference on “Social Space and Identity in Egypt and the Middle East, which was organized by Communitas, the Sociology-Anthropology Graduate Student Organization in November 2007.

In terms of service to the University at large, Rizzo has chaired the provost’s task force on the faculty search process and guidelines. This time-consuming appointment has involved developing a guide that covers best practices before recruitment begins (planning for a productive search, developing position description and job postings, outreach activities, developing timelines for recruitment and selection, formation of the search committee, setting the guidelines for the committee’s work, and developing evaluation criteria); during recruitment (screening applications, evaluation of candidates, identifying a long and short list of candidates, developing interview guidelines, planning campus visits for top candidates, selection of top candidate and an alternate); and after recruitment (evaluation of the recruitment process). The guide will also include strategies, helpful tactics to use and potential pitfalls to avoid, drawing from the experiences and best practices of AUC faculty as well as best practices of comparable institutions and relevant literature.

Because of her research interest in gender studies, Rizzo has been deeply involved in the work of the Institute of Gender and Women’s Studies (IGWS). Since 2007, she has offered courses and advised graduate student theses in this area; and she has contributed to various policy decisions in regards to the graduate program in IGWS. She has also been involved with the Nowaihi Award for Best Thesis in Gender Studies selection committee (March 2017; March-April 2021) and the Graduate Student Support Grant Evaluation Committee (Fall 2014-Spring 2015).

She has served AUC in many other roles: on the provost search committee, the faculty services committee, in an accreditation workgroup dealing with the learning experience at AUC, various task forces dealing with faculty compensation, recruitment, and retention.

Beyond AUC, she has an impressive record of service to professional and civic organizations. She is a member/volunteer in, especially those dealing with issues relating to women and gender, including those seeking the empowerment of women in Egypt and the Middle East, and their protection against violence, harassment, and discrimination.

In short, Rizzo has performed outstanding service to AUC and the wider community, and her efforts during her twenty years at AUC show that she has gone far beyond the ordinary requirements of faculty in the area of academic service. She is a worthy recipient of the award for Excellence in Academic Service.

To know more about Helen Rizzo, click here.