Honoring Exceptional Faculty

Each year, Arts & Sciences recognizes a few outstanding faculty members for their teaching and leadership. On Sept. 8, Barbara Kunkel, Ke Nie, Henry ‘Roddy’ Roediger III, and Joseph Schraibman were honored. Each of them has greatly inspired and influenced not just their students, but their peers and communities as well. But don’t take our word for it. The people who can best explain why these faculty have been recognized this year are the very people who recommended them for these awards, so we’ve included brief excerpts from their letters of recommendation.

Distinguished Teaching Award Winners

Ke Nie, lecturer in Chinese in East Asian languages and cultures

“Clearly, I could run the printer out of ink describing why Nie-laoshi is an outstanding professor, but I think her most important and influential quality is her genuine care for her students and her course. It can’t be easy to be perennially energetic and kind, but she embodies those traits every single time I see her, and I believe it’s because she chooses to do so…She cares so much about us and our learning experiences that she makes the effort every single day to be as indefatigable and joyful as she is. Studying with Nie-laoshi transformed my own experience with the language. I went from a stagnant call-and-response class in high school to her dynamic and productive course with a professor as excited about Chinese as I was. She not only profoundly enjoys teaching but also loves college-aged kids. It’s an absolute pleasure to be in her class—even though it’s my first class every morning! Ke Nie puts more of herself into her teaching and her students than anyone I’ve ever met.”

Joseph “Pepe” Schraibman, professor of Spanish in the Romance languages and literatures department
Pepe was nominated by three faculty members from across the University:

“Each day he would arrive 5 minutes early so that we could practice chatting in Spanish with him. In class, he introduced complex topics by asking simple, personal questions that we could relate to, and, outside of class, he would constantly send us articles about Cuba happenings as they related to other topics such as mental health... It is this balance of support and reflection that makes Pepe the epitome of the Arts & Sciences mission. It is truly because of Pepe that I am where I am today. Whereas before I saw my learning as limited to what I know, Pepe’s class showed me that it is an ever-growing, collaborative process. He has challenged me to take risks when I’ve been hesitant…and most importantly, he has encouraged me to be passionate.”

“While the department boasts a most capable and dedicated faculty, no one surpasses Joe's ability to evoke the appreciation of his students. They admire his knowledge, his passion for learning, and his care for them. Joe makes himself available to students, including, exceptionally, during Saturday office hours. His particular ability to engage students--many of whom have professional interests in the sciences and social sciences--in literature and in cultural history is noteworthy.”

“In the years I have known him, he has shown dedication to students that exceeds all expectations. He not only has the patience to get to know all students ‘by name and story’ but also to teach these same students that getting to know countless other names and other stories (stemming from faraway places like Cuba or the Canary Islands, or dating back to the nineteenth century) will be well worth their time… Our PhD candidates not only benefit enormously from Prof. Schraibman’s encyclopedic knowledge of literature, he also spends countless hours helping students out with an indispensable skill: crafting a clear academic prose. This of course can be a tedious and sometimes thankless task, and yet clear academic writing in more than one language remains a crucial and also marketable skill, that we sometimes take for granted, but that remains at the core of what we do in our field.”

Distinguished Leadership Award Winner

Henry “Roddy” Roediger III, the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of Psychological & Brain Sciences

“We feel that Roddy is the archetype of the individual for whom this award is intended: a leader and role model for all of us in terms of what it means to make massive service and leadership contributions to Arts & Sciences, the University, and the field of Psychology… Roddy served two terms as chair of the Psychology Department. His tenure as chair was wildly successful; it brought the department to national prominence, and the strong consensus of the department is that Roddy was the driving force that made it happen. As chair and since, he has worked tirelessly to mentor junior faculty and to help them succeed in their own work... Roddy has also made enormous service and leadership contributions to the University as a whole. He served as the Dean of Academic planning, has sat on the Academic Planning Committee, headed the Task Force on Graduate Education, and has served on numerous search committees as well as other types of committees. Importantly, he leads by action, which encourages others to share in his service and leadership commitment to the University.”

David Hadas Teaching Award

Barbara Kunkel, professor of biology

“I asked Barbara to become course master for Biology 2960, the first semester Biology introductory course, in 2013. This course serves ~700 students. It is a key course for many undergraduates in A&S and also Engineering, fundamental to the Biology major and serves many non-biology majors as well. She has been exemplary in her approach to teaching this course, making it a high priority and dedicating herself to making the course better… In preparation for this role, Barbara attended the NAS-HHMI Summer Institute for Biology Teaching, where she learned a great deal about inclusive teaching and student-centered approaches to learning and to increase student engagement. She spent Spring, 2013 developing plans, informing herself about the current course by attending all the lectures and participating fully in a lab section. As part of the effort, the revise the curriculum in this fundamental course, she worked with other faculty involved to develop learning objectives, a pre- and post-test based on those learning objectives, and made changes in content to better serve our students needs. She improved the implementation of ‘clickers’ (personal response systems) in the course, using them as a learning tool to encourage peer-discussion. She also spearheaded additional student support in the form of peer-led discussion groups, called Biology Learning Teams, and to collect data on the effectiveness of these innovations. She has been extraordinary in her dedication to student learning and success in this course and she continues to use data from the pre- and post-test, and analysis of student success correlated with clicker use and with participation in peer-learning groups to guide course revision. She continues to reflect on the course and make course improvements. ”