Penn Arts & Sciences Students Receive 2024 Penn Prize for Excellence in Graduate Teaching

2024 Penn Prize for Excellence in Graduate Teaching recipients

Inside the Penn Graduate Student Center on April 25, graduate students and friends, families, and supporting staff gathered to celebrate the 10 recipients of the 2024 Penn Prize for Excellence in Graduate Teaching.

“As graduate instructors, Penn Prize winners have made tremendous impacts on Penn students, helping them learn and find connection in classes and fields,” says Bruce Lenthall, co-director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning, and Innovation, which provides support for the awards organized by the Office of the Provost. “The Prize winners’ commitment to their students reminds us how meaningful the engagement between graduate instructors and their students often is here.”

The awards were presented by Karen Detlefsen, vice provost for education, who noted they are unique because nominations are University-wide and come from undergraduates instead of faculty. This year 114 nominations were narrowed by a committee to 20 finalists and then to 10 winners. In opening remarks, Detlefsen described the “effusiveness and gratitude” undergraduates showed in their nominations about how much the winning instructors advanced their educations.

Joyce Kim, a Ph.D. candidate who studies higher education and sociology, taught Introduction to Sociology and Introduction to Sociology Research Methods. She says she enjoys giving students the opportunity to discover the role sociology plays in their larger lives, as well as the mentoring relationships that happen once the course has ended.

“I made it a point to know my students beyond just seeing them within class time,” Kim says. “I took time to set up a pre-semester survey to get to know them beforehand, getting to see how their interests connect with course material, and I try to view them not as students but whole individuals, too.” She says she was pleasantly surprised to receive the award notification, calling it “heartwarming.” She hopes to teach her own class related to the purposes of higher education soon, connected to her research.

Steve Zdancewic, a professor of computer science and chair of the selection committee, says many students went well beyond what would be required of teaching assistant practices, and nominations mentioned that teachers exposed students to new ways of approaching a subject or problem.

“Teaching is hard, and good teaching is even harder,” Zdancewic says. “Thankfully, at Penn we have way too many good Ph.D. and graduate students helping with teaching, but we should acknowledge them and their good work. And practically, a lot of TAs may be destined for faculty positions at other places, and having an award like this might make a difference. It’s a way to validate that they have good teaching philosophies.”

Five from Penn Arts & Sciences were prize winners:
- Jonathan Dick, English, Penn Arts & Sciences
- Joyce Kim, Sociology, Penn Arts & Sciences and the Graduate School of Education
- Nipun Kottage, Anthropology, Penn Arts & Sciences and the Perelman School of Medicine
- Jacqueline (Jacqui) Wallis, Philosophy, Penn Arts & Sciences
- Caroline Wechsler, History and Sociology of Science, Penn Arts & Sciences and the Perelman School of Medicine

To read the full announcement, click here.

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