2012 Recipients of SAS Teaching Awards Announced
- Sherri Somers
2012 Awards for Distinguished Contributions to Undergraduate Education
Congratulations to the winners of this year's awards, pictured with Executive Dean Douglas Greenberg in Winants Hall.
Scroll down or click on a name to read the citation.
Professor: Janet Walker
Professor: Eugene White
Associate Professor: Judith Gerson
Associate Professor: Daniel Goldstein
Associate Professor: Eric Gawiser
Assistant Professor: Edyta Bojanowska
Assistant Professor: John McGann
Non-tenure Track Faculty: Annie King
Non-tenure Track Faculty: Dillon Mahoney
Teaching Assistant: Ebru Isgin
Teaching Assistant: Jenna Lewis
Teaching Assistant: Lyra Stein
Teaching Assistant: Alexandra Walczak
Janet Walker, Comparative Literature
Professor Janet Walker has distinguished herself throughout her career of more than forty years at Rutgers University as an outstanding classroom teacher and as an innovator of undergraduate education in Comparative Literature and in South and East Asian Literatures. Very successful too at the graduate level, Professor Walker has outdone herself in recent years reaching higher levels of teaching excellence. From first-year to senior courses, in each and every category of the SIRS form, her scores are always significantly above the departmental mean. Her scores are just as impressive when compared to the two other excellent departments with which Professor Walker often cross-lists her courses: the Department of African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian Languages and Literatures (AMESALL), and the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures. Quantitative results and comments by the students gratefully recognize the depth of her knowledge, her inspiring enthusiasm, the appeal of her excellent choices of literary texts and theoretical readings, and her positive attitude towards the students’ needs and interests.
Professor Walker’s contributions to undergraduate education in Comparative Literature and SAS go way beyond the classroom. Particularly since her promotion to Professor I in 1999, Professor Walker has devoted her experience, time, and intellectual curiosity to undergraduate curriculum development in Comparative Literature, and the departments mentioned above. Since then, she has created or re-developed seven courses from Post-Colonial Theory to several courses on Literatures of South and East Asia. She served as Undergraduate Director to the Program in Comparative Literature on several occasions, and in that capacity was an active member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Committee that reorganized the undergraduate curriculum in Comparative Literature towards the current structure of the program.
For all these reasons, but also because of her sustaining energy and enthusiastic commitment, Janet Walker has earned the warm respect of her colleagues in Comparative Literature and the gratitude of the School of Arts and Sciences.
Professor Eugene White is one of the leading financial historians in the world today. He has published numerous articles in leading journals on the history of the U.S. banking and financial system and on French monetary and financial history. His work on the 1929 Wall Street Crash and the banking system in the nineteenth century are standard references in textbooks. Since the recent financial crisis, Professor White has been in great demand by the press and government agencies because of his detailed and insightful knowledge of how the U.S. financial system works. He is currently engaged in a study of the history of U.S. financial regulation funded by a National Science Foundation Grant.
As this award recognizes, Professor White is an outstanding teacher with a rare ability to integrate his teaching and scholarly interests in a way that is accessible and beneficial to his students. He is also exceptionally talented as a mentor. Undergraduates that have been lucky enough to work as research assistants for Professor White have learned an enormous amount and gone on to graduate school and prestigious jobs. This was echoed in many comments from students, one of which wrote: "As an instructor and academic Professor White is exceptional, but as a mentor and role model he is unparalleled.”
Characterized by students as "inspiring," "committed to high standards of scholarly excellence," "challenging and constructive," "approachable and accessible," or put simply—"a great teacher," Professor Judith Gerson has been one of the most dedicated, innovative, and hard-working faculty at Rutgers University for more than three decades.
A versatile scholar whose expertise span feminist theory, holocaust studies, qualitative methods, gender, migration, memory, sociology of work, and German Jewish history, Professor Gerson has designed path-breaking curricula at undergraduate and graduate levels in three fields: sociology, women's and gender studies, and Jewish studies. She has developed a rich array of course offerings ranging from large introductory lectures to advanced doctoral seminars. She has assumed the burden of teaching vitally important, but notoriously difficult methodology courses at both undergraduate and graduate levels. She has served on scores of dissertation, thesis, qualifying exam, and honors committees. Despite dramatic changes in programs and departments, Professor Gerson has remained one of the most beloved teachers and colleagues on campus. She is the kind of teacher-scholar that every great university wants its faculty to be, drawing on her pathbreaking research to shape exciting new courses and to engage her students in ongoing research that challenges received views and helps reshape the known world.
For her unstinting dedication to her students, her intellectual integrity, academic innovation, and generosity of spirit, Judy Gerson richly deserves the 2012 SAS Award for Teaching Excellence.
Professor Daniel Goldstein has been at the forefront of forging new frontiers in the synthesis of research and teaching in anthropology and Latin American Studies at Rutgers. Since he arrived at Rutgers University in 2005, Professor Goldstein has distinguished himself as an exceptionally gifted teacher and an internationally-recognized scholar of conflict, violence, and security studies.
Professor Goldstein is deeply committed to guiding undergraduate students to think more critically about the sources and experiences of inequality and injustice in the world, to use their insights to shape their actions in the world, and to learn from their engagement with the world. In addition to his teaching, he has accomplished these goals through a range of programs. He founded the first faculty-led International Service Learning (ISL) program, “Law, Justice and Rights in Bolivia,” which brings students into direct contact with residents of poor, indigenous communities and combines lectures, independent research projects, and community service. He also co-founded the Transnational New Brunswick project in 2009 with the support of an Academic Excellence award. As part of the project, Professor Goldstein designed a new course on “Engaged Anthropology” in which Rutgers undergraduate students worked alongside members of the New Brunswick Mexican community to conduct research on topics of mutual concern. At the end of the course, students and community residents co-authored a five chapter document that was distributed to university and community partners. Finally, Professor Goldstein was recently awarded a large grant from the Rutgers Faculty Research Award (with Ulla Berg) for the “Transnational New Jersey” project, which will create a network of scholars at Rutgers University focused on these issues throughout the state and develop other local initiatives involving researchers, students, and community members.
As these and other initiatives suggest, Daniel Goldstein’s synergistic teaching and research at Rutgers University recognizes that undergraduates have a tremendous energy and desire to change the world, and to see that their academic work has meaning and impact beyond the classroom.
Professor Eric Gawiser of the Physics and Astronomy Department transformed the introductory Astronomy and Cosmology course, focusing on concepts and reasoning, and introducing interactive technology and procedures that enhance student involvement. He has extended these innovations into the higher-level Principles of Astrophysics course and quantified their effects on learning and comprehension. Professor Gawiser has involved advanced students in his research, exploring the depths of the universe with observations from world-class telescopes. He was selected by the Rutgers Society of Physics Students for the 2012 Outstanding Teacher Award. Professor Eric Gawiser’s dedication and excellence in teaching is transforming education at Rutgers University.
Professor Edyta Bojanowska’s teaching in the Russian, Polish, Comparative Literature, and Honors Programs consistently has been of the highest caliber. A born teacher, she inspires students to excel, and has had a tremendous impact on a wide range of students in the short time she has been at Rutgers University: she has been instrumental in helping redesign the Russian major and minor; she has worked to expand the course offerings in our rapidly growing Polish program; she has added significant breadth to the course offerings in Comparative Literature; and she has provided superb mentoring for two Honors students.
As her discerning students comment on course evaluations, Professor Bojanowska is a “master teacher” whose “passion shines through,” and “other professors should learn from her.” Her approach to literature inspires her students to look carefully, think deeply, and articulate their ideas with enthusiasm. Professor Bojanowska sets high standards for her students: she expects her students to read a lot, and to read well, and she assigns lengthy essays that encourage students to develop skills in critical analysis, writing, and argumentation. Despite – or perhaps because of – her exacting standards, student comments on the course evaluations are overwhelmingly positive. Highlighting her ability to “unlock the complexities” of masterpieces of Russian and Polish literature and to stimulate “riveting class discussion,” students rave about Professor Bojanowska: “the greatest course I have taken at Rutgers in five years. The courage of the instructor to offer so many texts that were so complex and so diverse is amazing, but what is more amazing is that she managed to pull it off! [...] I can’t say enough about how great this course was.” In response to a question on a course evaluation about how the instructor encouraged intellectual growth and progress, one thankful undergrad remarks that Edyta Bojanowska teaches students “to read with an open mind.” This is the signal mark of truly effective teaching at a research university, and deserves to be recognized accordingly.
Professor John McGann is a behavioral neuroscientist in the Department of Psychology, specializing in the studying the neural basis of olfaction and its relevance to behavior. Since joining the Psychology faculty in 2009, Professor McGann has set a new standard in our undergraduate teaching.
In very large courses his dazzling lecture style and over-the-top demonstrations draw students in to the otherwise difficult scientific material, showing them how to approach it, grasp it, and see the natural beauty in it. In his newly-established seminar for Honors seniors engaged in research, Professor McGann is a challenging coach, pressing his students to improve their technical writing and public speaking while supporting them through the difficulties of their first real research projects. And in his own laboratory Professor McGann’s undergraduates are not just learning to collect data, but also routinely presenting their work at scientific meetings and earning authorship on published papers. What makes Professor McGann special as a professor is how he inspires his students. He inspires them to love learning and knowledge, he shows them “tough love” that pushes them to achieve things they thought beyond their abilities, and he shows them how to look across disciplinary boundaries as he integrates music, poetry, medicine, and philosophy into his neuroscience courses.
The School of Arts and Sciences, and Rutgers University, are very fortunate to have someone who marries research and teaching as effectively, and with as much heart and creativity, as John McGann.
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Annie Papreck King is one of the English Department’s most engaging and accomplished teachers, specializing in composition and courses on women’s writing. King’s consistently near-perfect scores on the SIRS evaluations tell part of the story, as do comments that celebrate the depth of her knowledge, her intelligence, and her skill in helping undergraduates respond proactively to challenging texts. Admired for her work in undergraduate English as well as the Writing Program, she has raised the bar in her design of innovative course materials and in strategies for guiding students through the pitfalls of the writing process.
Annie King is also probably the only recipient of an award from the School of Arts and Sciences whose classroom performance can be viewed right now on the internet—in fact, in multiple videos that the Writing Program has placed online to illustrate the excellence all of its teachers can aspire to. So skillful are King’s interactions with her students in some of these clips that several viewers have written in to ask if the scenes were actually staged. What the videos demonstrate, aside from Annie King’s warm, supportive personality, is her skill at inspiring a genuine desire to learn. As one student put it, inimitably, “She draws out your mind and gets your brain fluids flowing.”[back to top]
Dillon Mahoney has taught 16 courses for the Department of Anthropology since 2009. He has covered the gamut of our undergraduate cultural curriculum, ranging from “Introduction to linguistic anthropology” (100-level) to “Anthropology of Africa” (200-level) to the more specialized 300-level courses.
On class evaluations, Dr. Mahoney consistently earns extraordinarily high marks. Participants in “Local/global systems” in Spring 2011 rated his teaching effectiveness as 4.96 out of 5.00. (All but one of 28 students gave him the highest score possible). In the qualitative rating as well, students positively rave about Dr. Mahoney: “Mahoney is an amazing professor,” wrote one student in the class just mentioned, “He is so energetic and enthusiastic about teaching that it really makes everything he's talking about interesting. he would constantly blow my mind or open my eyes to various subjects throughout class. he was also good at promoting class discussion. this was, hands down, one of the best classes i took at Rutgers [sic. here and there].” A student in another class summed up his or her experience in three separate courses taught by Dr. Mahoney: “His range of knowledge is incredible and he is so great at explaining and speaking to students. He is inspiring to all of us anthropology majors!” As a thesis advisor, Dr. Mahoney’s services are now much in demand. This year, he is advising three theses as the primary supervisor.
Finally, Dr. Mahoney recently joined with a graduate student to plan and launch our “advising collective.” Now roughly 15-strong, this body of ABDs and junior faculty is providing a significant service to our often-wayward undergraduate majors. Again, Dillon Mahoney has done this work unbidden and unrewarded, and it has made a significant difference to the students who have availed of it.
Ebru Isgin has demonstrated a deep commitment to the craft of teaching and to her students during the past four years. Ms. Isgin has taught eight courses for the economics department – all on her own. The courses have ranged from Introductory Economics to the very demanding Econometrics course to a highly technical upper-level Labor Economics course.
No matter what the economics department has asked of her, Ms. Isgin has performed superbly. While her teaching ratings (which average in the 4.5 to 4.7 range) are one indication of her teaching, it is the written comments that really tell the story. Over and over students commented about how much care, concern, and respect Ms. Isgin showed them. She was repeatedly called the “Best instructor at Rutgers” and “most effective teacher at Rutgers.” Students praised her for teaching them how to learn, not to just memorize. Students praised her for giving them many hours of extra help outside regular class time. Others admired Ms. Isgin for bringing passion, energy, and patience every day to class.
One student asked why we don’t hire more instructors like her… the answer to that one is easy… teachers like Ebru Isgin are a rare commodity.
It’s not often that teaching in any field inspires students to write poetry, but that’s exactly what happened in Jenna Lewis’s “Nineteenth Century American Literature” class when one student was moved to pen these lines on the back of his SIRS rating form:
Read, read, and read some more
Read until your eyes get sore,
Write a paper and make it good
‘Cuz Jenna Lewis is from the ‘hood.
Jenna Lewis, my favorite professor
Is not only brilliant but a very snappy dresser.
Even though the titles of the books now escape me
I’ve learned a lot about literature lately
With the help of Jenna Lewis
Who, incidentally, did not pay me to write this.
Other students, less lyrically, also had the highest praise for her abilities as a teacher. “The course,” one student wrote, “has persuaded me that English is the path I want to pursue. Jenna is extremely intelligent but also refreshingly down to earth. She is always there to help—not just by giving you her ideas but by helping you to develop ideas of your own.”
Remarkably, Jenna Lewis has elicited the same admiration and respect from undergraduates at every level, from developmental writers in “Basic Composition” to Engineering honors student in “Exposition and Argument,” where her students called her “fantastic,” “excellent,” “wonderful,” “outstanding, “helpful,” “my favorite.” With all due respect to the engineers, this kind of praise might not be poetry, but it’s moving in that direction.
Lyra Stein has been a TA for two of the most challenging courses in Psychology, Quantitative Methods, and Soul Beliefs. Most graduate students actively avoid the "quant" teaching assignment. Ms. Stein accepted the challenge and did a fantastic job. Looking at the course evaluations, the mean of the course is considerably below the department mean on most questions–quant is a tough course. Reviewing Ms. Stein's ratings, not only does she exceed the mean for the course (i.e. she's better than the other TAs teaching quant) but she also exceeds the department mean on most questions! She is better at teaching quant than most TAs are at teaching their preferred courses. Her second courses is "Soul Beliefs," an incredibly successful Signature Course taught by Dan Olgivie and Len Hamilton, but one that demands a lot of contact hours between the TA and the students and requires a lot of grading hours. Because of the time demands, TA's also shy away from requesting this course. Ms. Stein accepted this challenge as well. Her course mean is above the department mean and this is no surprise. But what is very telling is that Lyra Stein's rating exceeds both the course mean and the department mean - she's clearly a first-rate teacher!
Alexandra Walczak began her graduate work in 2006 and is currently a PhD candidate in the Microbiology and Molecular Genetics graduate program working with Dr. Lily Young. Her thesis involves soil microorganisms and how they affect the surrounding mineralogy to change the fate and transport of mineral contaminates such as lead sulfide; her research has been supported by a NJ Water Resources Research Institute Grant, a Gordon and Betty Moore Summer Research Fellowship and a Koft-Umbreit Fellowship for Summer Research. Ms. Walczak joined the Division of Life Sciences as a Teaching Assistant in the Fall 2007 where she has taught laboratories in General Biology I and II, Microbiology for the Health Sciences, and most recently General Microbiology. With this award we are celebrating and recognizing her teaching ability, enthusiasm, and professionalism, as well as the significant contributions she has made to the design of the microbiology laboratory exercises and the important leadership role she has played in training new teaching assistants.