2014 Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Awards

Author: Mary Hendriksen

Wenzhao Sun, 2014 Kaneb Center award winner Laura Carlson, dean of the Graduate School, congratulates Wenzhao Sun on his Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching award.

During the 2014 spring semester, 44 Notre Dame graduate students were named as the recipients of the 2014 Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award co-sponsored by the Graduate School and the Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning. This award is presented annually to graduate student instructors and teaching assistants (TAs) who demonstrate commitment to exceptional teaching in lectures, seminars, labs, and across the academic profession. Departments may nominate only 5% of their TAs for this award.

Recipients were honored at a dinner in the McKenna Hall Conference Center. The evening included remarks by Philippe Collon, associate professor of physics; Kevin Barry, director of the Kaneb Center; and Laura Carlson, Vice President, Associate Provost, and Dean of the Graduate School.

An excerpt from Dean Carlson’s opening remarks follow:

“I would like to share with you this evening some reflections on teaching from my current vantage point of completing my 20th year as a professor at Notre Dame.

“I think teaching is an ill-defined problem. There is no single approach that guarantees you will become a great teacher. Each of us must find our own way. You are here today because you have discovered something that seems to work for you and for your students. But, don’t be complacent –it may not work always, which complicates things further. Moreover, it is difficult to know when you have arrived at a solution. Sure, you can give an exam and look at the grades, but do you really know that your exam shows that your students have learned something? anything? And what does it mean to have learned something, anyway? Seriously, why would you, or why would I, or why would anyone, ever want to teach?

I took my position as Dean of the Graduate School on August 1. It is considered a full-time administrative position, which means I don’t “have to” teach, and this year I am not in the classroom. Despite the administrative position, I have an active lab, with two new graduate students this year and a postdoc. A few weeks ago I was meeting with one of my students and going over data for her first-year project. I was stepping her through the analyses, pausing and getting her to think about what the data were telling her about her research question. This was all new to her. After a bit of prodding and pulling, there was that utterly magical moment when she sat back, a huge smile on her face, with the recognition that the data offered support for her ideas. It was a priceless moment, one that I have experienced many times over the years, but despite the frequency, it is a moment that always profoundly affects me—and makes me realize anew why I would ever want to teach. That night, I told my department that I would teach a graduate class this coming fall.

“We will recognize each of you later tonight for your contributions and successes in the classroom. I applaud you for your efforts, for your willingness to take on this ill-defined problem and find your own solutions, and I wish you many, many magical moments in your careers.”

A full listing of the award recipients follows.

Art, Art History And Design Katelyn Seprish
Classics Clare Brogan
Creative Writing Program Jayme Russell
Economics Robert Lester
History Rachel Banke
Benjamin Wetzel
International Peace Studies Kyle Lambelet
Literature Alexander Erik Larsen
Medieval Institute Christopher Scheirer
Philosophy Jeffrey Tolly
Political Science Michael Hartney
Soul Park
Psychology Xin Tong
Romance Languages & Literature James Cotton
Sociology Ana Velitchkova
Theology Stephen Gaetano
Justus Ghormley
Brian Hamilton
University Writing Center Kara Donnelly
University Writing Program Damian Zurro
Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Tyler Kreipke
Melinda Lake
Gaojin Li
Matthew Meagher
Arman Mirhashemi
Matthew Mosby
Chemical& Biomolecular Engineering Fernando Garcia
Raymond Seekell
Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences Ryan Alberdi
Tori Tomiczek
Computer Science & Engineering Paige Rodeghero
Electrical Engineering Kaijun Feng
Applied & Computational Mathematics & Statistics Wenzhao Sun
Biological Sciences Erin Franks
Shayna Sura
Lindsey Turnbull
Chemistry and Biochemistry Eric Hansen
Jared Lamp
Joseph Michalka
Brandon Tutkowski
Mathematics Victor Ocasio Gonzalez

Ryan Thompson
Physics Allison Showalter