Recognizing Leaders in Open Inquiry

As the University of New England fosters a culture of open inquiry, free expression, and respectful debate, we celebrate members of our community who embody these values.

The President’s Award for Constructive Discourse, established by UNE President James Herbert, is an annual award that recognizes faculty and professional staff who promote robust, civil conversations about difficult topics, either inside or outside the classroom.

Each spring, students, faculty, and professional staff make nominations. The following fall, one member of the faculty and one member of UNE’s professional staff receive the honor along with a $1,000 honorarium.

2023 Recipients

During the annual Fall Assembly for faculty and staff in August 2023, Andrew Rotondo, Ph.D., professor of Philosophy, and Marc Ebenfield, Ph.D., director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, were presented with the inaugural President's Award for Constructive Discourse.

“As recipients of the President's Award for Constructive Discourse, Andrew and Marc have clearly demonstrated our University's leadership in fostering constructive dialogue,” President Herbert said in making the announcement. “Their exemplary efforts not only play a crucial role in addressing the challenges confronting our world, they set an example for the UNE community in how to engage in this important work.”


Headshot of Marc Ebenfield

Marc Ebenfield, director of UNE's Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, was selected for the professional staff category for his work around constructive discourse surrounding the center’s educational outreach efforts. Ebenfield has provided faculty and professional staff with the tools to foster conversations on difficult topics both inside and outside the classroom.

He has organized “Difficult Discussions” brown bag sessions and “Lunch and Learn” events related to promoting constructive conversations. One session encapsulated the spirit of the award, emphasizing the creation of a "respectful, collaborative, and critical learning space in which to develop more comfort with these topics" with students.

Ebenfield also compiled a resource for faculty to use to help facilitate constructive conversations about challenging subjects and is actively working on a foundation grant proposal to further support these efforts.


Headshot of Andrew Rotondo

Andrew Rotondo, an associate teaching professor of Philosophy in the College of Arts and Sciences, has been awarded the faculty category for his deliberate efforts to encourage thoughtful discourse in his classes.

In his nomination letter submitted by one of his students, Rotondo is celebrated for encouraging students to challenge or defend ideas they do not necessarily hold while also teaching them to have intellectual conversations about current events. Rotondo also champions ways for students to constructively disagree with one another.

Beyond the classroom, he serves as the academic advisor to UNE's Philosophy Club, where he promotes a forum for students to discuss contemporary topics in ethics and morality. The club's semesterly debates provide students with exposure to constructive disagreements on relevant issues.