Faculty of the Year
Rita Liberti named George and Miriam Phillips Outstanding Professor
At Cal State East Bay’s annual Faculty Honors ceremony Oct. 3, surrounded by colleagues, past students and university administration, Professor Rita Liberti took the stage to accept the peer-nominated George and Miriam Phillips Outstanding Professor award, and gave her sincere thanks to the crowd.
Although she has known about the award for months, Liberti later said, “To say that I’m deeply honored doesn’t really speak to how I’m feeling — I’m not sure there are words to describe it. I’m so aware of how strong the faculty is at Cal State East Bay, so to be nominated and picked from among them is overwhelming.”
Liberti was nominated for the Outstanding Professor award by her longtime friends and fellow professors, Eileen Barrett (English) and Linda Ivey (history).
“Eileen was one of the very first people I met on this campus,” Liberti recalled. “She was the director of faculty development, so that’s how we met, literally on my first day. We just sort of clicked and we’ve stayed close over the years. And Linda and I have really connected over our love of history — our shared love of the past.”
Liberti, who began teaching at Cal State East Bay in 1997 and specializes in 20th century women’s sport history, has not only made significant contributions to the Department of Kinesiology and in her area of scholarship, she is the founding director of The Center for Sport and Social Justice. The center, which has gained national notoriety and esteem, hosts several famed and thought-provoking speakers on campus each year, engaging students in socio-political conversations surrounding athletes, sports, and racial and gender equality.
As part of her introduction at the awards ceremony, Paul Carpenter, department chair, submitted a statement regarding Liberti’s work and teaching.
“Students and colleagues see Dr. Liberti as having a deep passion for her subject and as being tireless in her support of student success and her advocacy for underrepresented students,” Carpenter said. “Her teaching addresses challenging social issues and she brings a critical perspective of students’ understanding of complex social issues. Reading Dr. Liberti’s student evaluations paints the picture of a model university instructor.”
Among her many accomplishments, Liberti is co-author of “(Re)Presenting Wilma Rudolph,” which won the North American Society for Sport History’s best monograph prize in 2016, and she is a past recipient of the Outstanding Scholar on Issues of Social Justice and Multiculturalism award at Cal State East Bay. Liberti has served as department chair of kinesiology and as vice chair of the Academic Senate. She has lent her expertise as lead advisor for a collection of children’s books on women in sport and spent two years as a consultant for “This American Life,” a series about sport and society on National Public Radio. Liberti has also done significant work on the history of women’s basketball at Historically Black Colleges and Universities during the 1930s, which she plans to devote a majority of her time to in the coming years.
Liberti received her undergraduate degree in physical education from Edinboro State College (now university), her master’s degree in athletic administration from Slippery Rock University and her Ph.D. in sport studies from the University of Iowa.
The George and Miriam Phillips Outstanding Professor award was established in memory of George, a Superior Court judge. The couple had been longstanding supporters of the university and were active in the local community. Melissa Philips, wife of George and Miriam’s son Jim, is also an alumna of the university.
The recipient of the award is selected each year by a subcommittee of the Faculty Affairs committee. Nominations are accepted from within the university community and selection is based on achievements in teaching, contributions to academic scholarship/profession and participation in the campus community. The winner of the award receives $1000 in prize money.