English Chair June Saraceno

English Chair June Saraceno

Sierra Nevada College’s English Chair June Saraceno continually strives to bring exceptional literary speakers and programs to Incline Village for the campus and the community.

Now, Nevada Humanities has deemed Saraceno as exceptional herself.

Nevada’s nonprofit affiliate for the National Endowment of the Humanities honored Saraceno, along with former UNR President Joe Crowley and former UNLV President Carol Hunter, for their achievements in the humanities.

In a ceremony on March 28 at the Governor’s Mansion, the Nevada Humanities Board of Trustees awarded Saraceno for Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities for excellence and innovation in humanities teaching.

“Judged by the standards of increasing literacy and, perhaps more importantly, love of language, her service to northern Nevada is incomparable. A leader in her field, a friend and mentor to students, and herself a prolific poet and author – June’s dedication to the humanities is multifarious, and her impact will be felt for years to come,” said Kai Bekkeli, an SNC faculty member who supported her nomination for the award.

For the other Nevada Humanities awards, Crowley and Hunter were given the Judith Winzeler Award for Excellence in the Humanities, while Richard Hooker, of Las Vegas, Project REAL of Las Vegas and the National Automobile Museum in Reno were also honored for humanities contributions.

Every other year Nevada Humanities presents awards recognizing “remarkable” individuals and organizations that foster cultural enrichment and deepen the understanding of the human experience by facilitating opportunities for Nevadans to engage with the humanities, according to a Nevada Humanities press release.

Since she launched the English program at SNC in 2002, Saraceno has continually added to the college’s cultural and literary offerings.

“Professor Saraceno is relentless and fearless in the way she builds opportunities for advancement of the humanities within the college, then creates a space for the local community to participate in the college’s activities,” said Laura Wetherington, who assists with the college’s MFA in Creative Writing program.

Aside from recently partnering with acclaimed poet Brian Turner to create the low residency MFA in Creative Writing program, Saraceno, through the years, has also established the BFA in Creative Writing, the Sierra Nevada Review annual literary publication, the Distinguished Visiting Writer position at the college, the journalism program, and the Writers in the Woods reading series. She has been teaching a variety of classes from British Literature to Poetry since 1987.

“I’m really thrilled about this award,” Saraceno said. “It’s great to be recognized for teaching because I’m passionate about teaching.”

However, community leadership and outreach is also one of the requirements for the Outstanding Teaching in the Humanities award, and Saraceno’s vision for the college as a “literary mecca” has bridged a gap between community members and the college students.

The Writers in the Woods series invites nationally recognized writers to campus for a public reading and a writing workshop, such as Turner, author of “Here, Bullet,” and Robert Hass, former poet laureate. Last fall, Tim O’Brien, author of the critically acclaimed, Vietnam story, “The Things They Carried,” visited Incline Village for the Common Read, an event which brought over 400 people to campus to hear O’Brien speak.

“My whole goal is to make SNC a literary center. This actually makes it an intellectual center because people are talking about the ideas and issues writers explore,” Saraceno said. “It opens conversations about war, peace, race, honesty. It makes people think.”

Saraceno, the author of two books of poetry, received another honor earlier this year, when she was accepted into a month-long artists’ residency program at the Camac Art Center in Marnay-sur-Seine, France this coming August.