Western's Sandra Alfers honored with statewide faculty citizenship award

Sandra Alfers, professor of German in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and director of the Ray Wolpow Institute for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity has been named a recipient of the 2018 Rep. Timm Ormbsy Award for Faculty Citizenship.

Now in its fifth year, the Ormsby award was created to encourage, recognize, and honor exemplary civic engagement by faculty from each of the six public baccalaureates in Washington state. This award is inspired by the many achievements of Representative Timm Ormsby, including his steadfast support of higher education in the state, and award winners embody service in the public interest.

The award was presented by Faculty Senate President Allison Giffen during the Faculty Senate Dinner on Wednesday, June 6.

“In this current political climate, when intolerance, bigotry, racism, and antisemitism seem to be on the rise, when racial slurs are spray painted across campus walls, and books of Jewish Studies are vandalized in our own library, the work that Sandra Alfers offers Western and to the larger community is invaluable,” Giffen said.

Alfers is a professor of German with a research focus in Holocaust Studies. Her work on the poetry of the Holocaust has been published in the U.S. and Europe in English and German and it has also been translated to Czech. In 2016, Alfers became the founding director of the Wolpow Institute.

“Along with important fundraising work, in which she has developed relationships regionally, nationally and internationally, she has led a robust slate of programs and events that have had far-reaching effects," Giffen said.

Since its creation in September 2016, the Wolpow Institute has offered successful scholarly and educational programs on Holocaust, genocide, and crimes against humanity by bringing to campus a variety of speakers including internationally renowned scholars like Deborah Lipstadt and public figures like Brian Cladoosby, the former President of the National Congress of American Indians.

In partnership with other units on campus, the institute has also supported faculty initiated programs such as a library exhibit on the refugee crisis in Europe. Alfers has been a member of the Presidential Taskforce on Preventing and Responding to Antisemitism and helped bring Mark Weitzman, director of Government Affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Chief Representative of the SWC at the United Nations, for programming on antisemitism to campus last October. In 2017, Western Washington University became the first university in the United States to adopt the legally non-binding IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) working definition on antisemitism for educational purposes. Under the auspices of the institute, a minor in Holocaust and Genocide Studies is also being proposed.

“I am honored to receive this recognition from my faculty colleagues," Alfers said. “It shows that together we can indeed make a difference in moving difficult conversations forward.”