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Maria Gallardo-Williams and Derek Ham receive the 2023 Libraries Faculty Award

The 2023 NC State University Libraries Faculty Award has been given to Maria Gallardo-Williams, a Teaching Professor in the Department of Chemistry and the Director of Organic Chemistry Labs, and Derek Ham, an Associate Professor of Media, Arts, Design and Technology and the Department Head of Media Arts, Design and Technology in the College of Design, whose collaborations with the Libraries are extraordinary. 

The Libraries Faculty Award recognizes NC State faculty members who have contributed consistently and notably to the accomplishment of the Libraries’ mission, vision, and strategic initiatives. The award, established in commemoration of the Libraries’ centennial year in 1989, enables the Libraries to recognize faculty contributions and comes with an honorarium and recognition at the Friends of the Library fall event.

This is the first time that the Libraries Faculty Award has been given to two recipients in the same year. 

As a chemistry professor who enthusiastically adopted Open Educational Resources (OERs) in the 2010s, Dr. Gallardo-Williams is perhaps the greatest champion of open education at NC State. She partnered with the Libraries and DELTA over several years to develop a nationally-recognized open Virtual Reality Chemistry lab. This “OER in VR” Lab has been shown to measurably improve student outcomes and has been adopted by hundreds of campuses across North America when instruction moved online throughout the pandemic.

Gallardo-Williams was also one of the first faculty members to engage with the Libraries’ Alt-Textbook program. Her Student-Made Audiovisuals Reinforcing Techniques (SMART) videos have become the go-to example of the potential of open education to empower students and create transformative pedagogical practices that leverage the Libraries expertise and support. She has spoken about her work with the Alt-Textbook program at national conferences, published articles on this work, and was featured in one of our Library Stories. In 2016, she was honored with the Gertrude Cox Award for Innovative Excellence in Teaching in large part due to this work with the Libraries.

“Ever since I came to work at NC State (20 years ago!) the Libraries has been a very important part of my academic life,” Gallardo-Williams says. “The Libraries gave me one of my first grants for educational research, the Alt-Textbook grant, which I used to start my video and virtual reality research. Over the years my students and I have had access to the best library services available—and not just in the traditional sense, with books and journals, but beyond that with an amazing array of tools in the Makerspace, digital resources and support in the Digital Media Lab, and even copyright assistance by the Open Knowledge Center. I couldn’t be more grateful and proud to receive the 2023 Libraries Faculty Award.”

Gallardo-Williams is one of the Libraries’ top boosters on Twitter, where she regularly highlights Libraries services, librarians’ work, and the ways she integrates the Libraries into her teaching. She also promotes the role of the Libraries as an essential component of the university’s mission with colleagues on campus. A recent example of this is the part Gallardo-Williams played in connecting the Libraries with colleagues in the Department of Chemistry who subsequently agreed to partner with the Libraries in adapting an OER, which can be rolled out across multiple sections of Organic Chemistry, potentially saving thousands of students hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“Maria contributes consistently and notably to the accomplishment of the Libraries’ mission, vision, and strategic initiatives,” says David Tully, the Libraries’ Librarian for Student Success & Affordability. “Her commitment to her students and passion for innovation and exploration are contagious, and her partnerships have made the Libraries’ innovative projects real for countless students.”

Dr. Ham expands the definition of public scholarship through his pioneering Virtual Reality (VR) projects that reclaim and explore racial history. His innovative work has garnered international recognition, bridging the arts, the academy, and popular culture. Throughout his many successes, Ham has been a strong collaborator and champion of the Libraries, promoting access to information and public engagement.

In 2018, Ham released the interactive VR experience I AM A MAN, which places the viewer in the midst of the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike. Widely available through commercial VR platforms, as well as in the Hill Library’s VR Studio, the work incorporates primary source materials to provide important historical grounding and context to events leading up to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Libraries highlighted I AM A MAN to the Forever Club in partnership with the Alumni Association, and it was a transformative experience for many alums, several of whom had never interacted with VR before.

Ham was a co-PI on the Virtual Martin Luther King, Jr. Project (vMLK) and led the development of its VR experience that hundreds of students view each semester in the Hill Library’s Cyma Rubin Visualization Gallery. He collaborated with Libraries staff to utilize nascent technology in the VR Studio for motion capture. Many of Ham’s students who contributed to the project have also been employed by the Libraries in the VR Studio, reinforcing the reciprocal relationship and knowledge sharing between the Libraries and the College of Design.

“When I first visited NC State (almost 8 years ago now), the Libraries was one of the things that impressed me about the university,” Ham says. “Little did I know then (but I know now) that our library system was more than beautiful architecture. Over the years I have found the Libraries to be a welcoming community and essential space where I’ve been able to share my work and present ideas to both small and large audiences. It’s an essential hub to the university, with an amazing staff. I’m honored to receive this award.”

Ham’s most recent project, Barnstormers: Determined to Win, was created in collaboration with the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City, MO and a number of industry partners including locally based Epic Games. While Ham traveled to France when Barnstormers was a finalist in the 2022 Cannes XR Festival, he also worked with the Libraries to debut the experience on campus in the VR Studio. As part of the inaugural Black Research Symposium this spring, Ham presented this work at a Libraries Coffee & Viz event and shared his creative and scholarly practices that build bridges and empathy between those directly impacted by historic events and contemporary audiences.

“I am fortunate to have worked with Dr. Ham on a number of projects and presentations within the Libraries and am always inspired by the way he creatively engages with students and the broader community,” says Hannah Rainey, Associate Head of Research Engagement. “His work is unparalleled. In addition to being a wildly talented designer, artist, and scholar, he is also a courageously kind colleague.”


This post was originally published in NC State University Libraries.