Nicosia receives 2022 President’s Award for Engagement with Students

Headshot of Marissa Nicosia

Marissa Nicosia, assistant professor of renaissance literature at Penn State Abington.

Credit: Marty Moore

ABINGTON, Pa. — Marissa Nicosia, associate professor of Renaissance literature at Penn State Abington, has received the University’s 2022 President’s Award for Engagement with Students. 

The award is given to one faculty member University-wide each year who goes beyond his or her responsibilities to engage and encourage students in learning. Those honored with the award have made themselves available to interact with students outside class, linked students to engagement opportunities, and helped them build their confidence as learners and potential contributors to society. 

“Student engagement enriches my research and life at Abington,” said Nicosia. “I know that the undergraduate research projects and public-facing events that I've organized have been worthwhile for the students with whom I've had the honor and pleasure of collaborating.”

Connecting with students in creative ways presents challenges and rewards that Nicosia welcomes.   

“Moving beyond standard classroom activities ignites student interest and provides them with other benefits as well. When we move to the library, visit a museum, or hear an invited speaker, students connect with ideas, spaces, books, objects, potential career models or mentors, and interlocutors that exceed what I can provide as a singular teacher,” she said. 

“When students are active researchers investigating an ingredient in a historical recipe manuscript, or editing a Renaissance poem for an open education resources textbook, or when they are devising an original performance, this work connects them to course or project materials in new and different ways,” Nicosia continued. 

Student engagement is a natural extension of her undergraduate pedagogy and her research interests in historical recipe manuscripts, rare books, editing and public-facing scholarship.  

She co-leads the long-running undergraduate research project "What’s in a Recipe?" that has involved nearly two dozen students since 2016. Participants have studied the literary, linguistic and historical materials in 17th- and 18th-century recipe manuscripts, including records held by the Eberly Family Special Collections Library at Penn State's University Park campus and the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. Students conduct research, learn paleography skills, and complete transcriptions. They also have tested recipes, investigated medicinal claims, and researched the manuscripts’ authors and owners.

“This ongoing project has entailed active collaborations with librarians at Penn State and beyond, including the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Free Library of Philadelphia, and Monash University Library in Australia,” said Friederike Baer, division head for arts and humanities at the Abington campus. “Thanks to Dr. Nicosia’s efforts, these connections have provided students with access to a range of truly transformative experiences.” 

Among Nicosia’s other student-centered initiatives: 

  • Collaborating with another Abington faculty member to create a new course that will culminate in an original performance by students this semester that is inspired by Shakespeare's "A Winter's Tale." 

  • Co-mentoring students in her ENGL 221W/455 course who are editing pieces for a forthcoming open textbook, "An Open Anthology of Transatlantic Premodern Literature." 

  • Managing an undergraduate fellowship program that connected students with area institutions, including archives and rare-book repositories.  

  • Supporting students in the Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society, which she serves as faculty adviser, as they undertake service projects such as collecting books for the campus Counseling and Psychological Services waiting area and raising money to provide books to incarcerated teens.  

“Dr. Nicosia has an outstanding, consistent record of engaging and encouraging students in academic endeavors that goes well beyond a professor’s typical responsibilities,” Baer said. 

Marissa Nicosia has consistently offered a robust schedule of innovative co-curricular activities that are open to all students at Abington. These initiatives have provided students with meaningful interdisciplinary and collaborative experiences that foster academic, social, and professional growth and learning.

—Friederike Baer , division head for Arts and Humanities

Baer hailed Nicosia for developing transformative experiences for students. 

“They include internships; summer research opportunities; participation in the creation of an interactive history exhibition about food, medicine and science at the Penn State Center in Philadelphia; and trips to the Folger Shakespeare Library. Several students have published their research on the Early Modern Recipes Online Collective website,” Baer said. 

“Marissa has consistently offered a robust schedule of innovative co-curricular activities that are open to all students at Abington,” Baer added. “These initiatives have provided students with meaningful interdisciplinary and collaborative experiences that foster academic, social, and professional growth and learning, and reflect her commitment to help build students’ confidence as learners and contributors to society.”

Several of Nicosia’s students have been recognized for their work, including a student who presented her research at a national undergraduate research symposium at Johns Hopkins University.  

Nicosia plans to continue this work with new cohorts of Abington students while writing a book called "Shakespeare in the Kitchen," which draws on her collaborations with students from "What's in a Recipe?" as well as her experiences teaching Shakespeare and her Cooking in the Archives project. 

“I trust that these projects will create new and ever-changing ways to engage with students, the community and the public,” Nicosia said. 

The annual President’s Award for Engagement with Students recognizes a faculty member who takes specific actions to be involved in student growth and learning. The $5,000 award consists of $3,000 for the recipient and $2,000 for the faculty member's department, to be managed by the recipient and used for extending the kinds of activities the award recognizes.