One of the many ways graduate students connect to the broader Brown community is through teaching. The Excellence in Teaching Award acknowledges graduate students whose passion for teaching is recognized by their peers. This year, four students, Muntazir Ali (Religious Studies), Christina Bailey-Hytholt (Biomedical Engineering), Alyssa Pascuzzo (Earth, Environmental and Planetary Science), and Les Robinson (History), will be awarded for their extraordinary devotion to teaching.
Ali most enjoyed teaching the course, On Human Longing: Persian and Urdu Poetry. “Combined with the enthusiasm that the students brought to the class and sections, this opportunity to develop and implement various pedagogical methods made for a learning experience whose fruits I continue to reap in my own research, and which continues to guide and enrich my teaching,” he says.
Ali studies the formations of self and space and their influence on the religious and political history of Badakhshan during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. For Ali, teaching has strengthened his drive to continue his scholarship of Islam and Muslims. Receiving the Teaching in Excellence Award, “is also a validation of the teaching philosophy that I have come to develop at Brown, a philosophy at the heart of which is care and kindness toward my students and fellow teachers,” he says.
Students are struck by his engagement with students and ability to create spaces for them to learn and grow. Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Nancy Khalek, says of Ali, “I have been impressed with how he makes himself available to students, establishing special office hours whenever they have a pending assignment. In short, as a graduate instructor, Muntazir is both professional and a reliable co-teacher.”
In her thesis work, Christina Bailey-Hytholt used trophoblast cells, cells, one of the most important components of the placenta, to develop biotechnical approaches to advance prenatal health. Teaching was an integral part of her experience as a graduate student. Bailey-Hytholt is extremely passionate about teaching students and seeing their growth as engineers. She is excited that this award shows the support she has in her goal to become a faculty member.
“As a woman in STEM, Christina was an excellent role model for students in the classroom. Her dedication and ability to guide students through research, teach the experimental method, and explain complex analytical tools is fantastic and demonstrates her passion for teaching that promotes the growth and development of others,” says Kareen Coulombe, Assistant Professor of Engineering and Medical Science and Director of Graduate Studies in Biomedical Engineering.
Bailey-Hytholt’s effectiveness in helping students learn is emphasized by one of her students, “Instead of simply presenting my data to her, I would be prompted to think about why I observed something I may not have expected or why a certain experiment may not have worked out. Beyond pursuing knowledge itself, the “what”, she pushed me to pursue the “how” and “why”; she was inspiring me to think like a scientist.
Alyssa Pascuzzo, a graduate student in Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Science (DEEP), shows a commitment to teaching which extends beyond Brown’s campus. While Pascuzzo was a dedicated teaching assistant for Global Environmental Remote Sensing and Mars, Moon, and the Earth, both courses in the Geology department, she also volunteered as co-coordinator in DEEP STEP (DEEP Science Teaching and Education Program) for the past four years.
In the DEEP STEP program, Pascuzzo helps create quarter-long modules in Earth Science that she co-teaches with public school teachers for second, third and fourth graders at three different schools. “This work has, by far, been the most rewarding teaching experience because the work I do is having a direct impact on improving the education of younger generations in our local community. Developing the lessons, engaging with the students, and collaborating with the teachers, fills my heart with joy,” she says.
Pascuzzo was recognized for her efforts to integrate new teaching methods into the syllabi of the courses she taught and using creative ways to engage students. Associate Professor Ralph Milliken shares, “It is clear that Alyssa is absolutely passionate about space and planetary science, and perhaps the only thing that she is more passionate about is getting others excited about these topics.”
Les Robinson studies the historical development of the concept of morale in the context of WWI, when citizen-soldier intellectuals wrote of its utility for encouraging work. He also investigates the concept of counter-morale, necessary for resistance to war. As a graduate student, Robinson has had the opportunity to teach alongside different professors and to develop and teach his own course through Brown Pre-College Summer Program.
“I have been inspired by the faculty’s example and have benefited enormously from their generous guidance and counsel during my time at Brown. This award recognizes those faculty, my fellow grads, and the students themselves who have generously shared a moment in their busy days to chat about becoming a better teacher,” says Robinson.
A prominent theme in the nominations was Robinson’s attention to improving students’ writing, developing relationships with students where they feel comfortable hearing and giving feedback. Lukas Rieppel, Assistant Professor of History shares in his nomination, “As the semester progressed, it became abundantly clear that Les puts a great deal of thought and care into his pedagogical work. As a result, he soon forged a unique rapport with his students, many of whom came to regard him as a trusted mentor and confidante.”