April 26, 2016

Whitney N. Yarber, Communications Specialist

Dr. Thomas Aiello Honored with President’s Award for Excellence in Research

Pictured, from left to right, is Dr. Cecil P. Staton, interim president of VSU, and Dr. Thomas Aiello, an associate professor in VSU’s Department of History and African American Studies Program.

VALDOSTA – Dr. Thomas Aiello is the recipient of Valdosta State University’s 2016 President’s Award for Excellence in Research.

The President’s Award for Excellence in Research is presented to a full-time faculty member who has worked at VSU for a minimum of three years; displays a strong and consistent record of publications, presentations, research, and creative and artistic works; and is engaged in public, peer-reviewed, and critiqued scholarship.

Aiello, an associate professor in VSU’s Department of History and African American Studies Program, was selected by the College of Arts and Sciences Presidential Award Committee for his wide range of scholarship and for his efforts to establish the Three-Minute Video Research Competition at the 22nd annual Undergraduate Research Symposium.

“Since my arrival at Valdosta State University six years ago, I have been fortunate to complete an extensive research and publishing program,” said Aiello. “The various disciplines in which I publish allow me to maintain influence in the fields of African American history, cultural history, sports history, and Southern history. It is an influence that I do not take lightly, [and] that I am grateful to have. And it is one [in] which I hope to expand in the coming years, both for myself and Valdosta State.”

The author of seven books, Aiello’s works display the complexity of his knowledge on a wide range of topics including the black southern press; black college football; Negro Leagues baseball; language and semantics in the 20th century; the glue-sniffing epidemic of the 1960s; an account of the life of a 19th century chess master; the Red Summer race riots of 1919, which won the Professor D. Simon Evans Prize for its distinguished contribution to scholarship; and an evaluation of the Louisiana law that allows criminal convictions through non-unanimous juries.

His eighth book, The Battle for the Souls of Black Folk: W.E.B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington, and the Debate that Changed the Course of Civil Rights, will be released in May.

Aiello’s article-length research is just as varied. He has published works on the films of Otto Preminger and Woody Allen, written a historical and theological evaluation of The Weather Girl’s 1982 hit single, “It’s Raining Men,” conducted a comparative evaluation of Ira Levin’s classic novel, Rosemary’s Baby, and produced articles on the historical theory of Bertrand Russell and the racial consequences of the arrival of the Atlanta Hawks in the Deep South.

“My publication record is unique, interdisciplinary, and multi-faceted, but it is also strong and consistent,” he said.

“What is most interesting about Dr. Aiello’s work is the range of topics and the sometimes sensitive issues he tackles,” said Dr. Connie Richards, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “I have heard him speak publicly about these issues, and while being politically correct, he also manages to articulate the crux of the issues and tell it like it was, or is, whatever the case may be. His research informs his teaching, and it is easy to see why students love his classes. He is informative, engaging, and makes history come alive and pertinent to contemporary audiences.”

Aiello has led classes on United States history, African American history, the Harlem Renaissance, the economics of slavery, black power, the history of black political murder, the black press, the history of American sports, and black intellectual history. He is considered an expert on the subject of black history and has shared his knowledge through dozens of peer-reviewed articles and chapters, book reviews, essays, conferences, and presentations.

“Tom’s success as a scholar is especially outstanding in light of the heavy teaching load at Valdosta State University,” said Dr. Chris Meyers, professor and interim head of the Department of History. “His normal rotation consists of two freshman-level survey classes and two upper-level courses designed for juniors and seniors. In addition, Dr. Aiello has also taught super-section survey courses with enrollments of 150 students. Other scholarly work that demands his time are serving on the editorial advisory board of The Journal of Popular Culture, the publications committee of the Louisiana Historical Association, and [as] book review editor of the journal Black Ball. All of these commitments take time away from his own research and writing, which makes his scholarly production more noteworthy.”

“… my research also informs my teaching,” said Aiello, who is well-known for crafting his research projects into courses in order for students to also benefit from his knowledge.

Aiello believes that such projects have also aided him in his ability to direct and guide students in their own research, better tailor independent study courses for graduate students and advanced undergraduate students, and apply that experience to teaching capstone research seminars.

Contact Dr. Thomas Aiello at taiello@valdosta.edu or (229) 333-5947 for more information.

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Valdosta State University’s 2013-2019 Strategic Plan represents a renewal of energy and commitment to the foundational principles for comprehensive institutions.

Implementation of the plan’s five goals, along with their accompanying objectives and strategies, supports VSU’s institutional mission and the University System of Georgia’s mission for comprehensive universities.

The story above demonstrates VSU's commitment to meeting the following goals:

Goal 1: Recruit, retain, and graduate a quality, diverse student population and prepare students for roles as leaders in a global society.

Goal 3: Promote student, employee, alumni, retiree, and community engagement in our mission.

Goal 4: Foster an environment of creativity and scholarship.

Goal 5: Develop and enhance Valdosta State’s human and physical resources.

Visit http://www.valdosta.edu/administration/planning/strategic-plan.php to learn more.