Graduate students honored for excellence in teaching

Written by
The Office of Communications, Princeton University
May 13, 2022

The Graduate School has presented 29 graduate students with its annual Teaching Awards in recognition of their outstanding abilities as teachers.

Winners were selected by a committee chaired by Cole Crittenden, deputy dean and acting dean of the Graduate School, and composed of the academic affairs deans and staff from the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning. The nominations were made by academic departments and programs. Each winner receives $1,000.

The selection committee recognized a graduate student assistant in instruction (AI) from each of the four divisions with a special commendation. They are Jacqueline Campbell (humanities), Shelby Sinclair (social sciences), Merlijn Staps (natural sciences) and Rajiv Sambharya (engineering).

Katelyn Randazzo was honored with the Quin Morton Graduate Teaching Award for instructors in the Princeton Writing Program. Soojung Han was recognized with the Collaborative Teaching Initiative (CTI) Graduate Teaching Award.

 

Jacqueline Campbell

Jacqueline Campbell, a fifth-year Ph.D. student in English, was nominated for her work teaching “Introduction to Science Fiction.” “At every turn, Campbell showed care and respect for her students, all while slyly creating opportunities for every single student to participate,” said Diana Fuss, the Louis Fairchild ’24 Professor of English, and English Professor Russ Leo.

Students commented on Campbell’s creativity and accessibility to students. “She gave great feedback on papers, was prompt in responses and was really flexible to work with during office hours,” said one student. “She used great tools during our discussions to help organize ideas. Overall, she helped me engage even more in the class and helped my growth as a writer.” 

 

Shelby Sinclair

Shelby Sinclair is a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in history. She served as an AI twice for “African-American History Before 1863.” Due to the pandemic, precepts were held online, and Tera Hunter, the Edwards Professor of American History, co-taught some of them alongside Sinclair. “I got to see her in action and watched in admiration and observed the students’ respectful and engaged interactions with her,” Hunter said. “Shelby was super instrumental in helping me come up with creative assignments, many of which she initiated on her own.” 

Students said Sinclair created a nurturing environment under difficult circumstances. “I cannot overstate her thoughtfulness, patience and insightful guidance as we moved through sensitive, complex topics,” said one student. “Our class together was on Zoom, and I was always impressed with how she seemed to be able to tell if someone had even the intention to speak — something that many teachers cannot do even in person.” 

 

Merlijn Staps

A fourth-year Ph.D. student in ecology and evolutionary biology, Merlijn Staps was recognized for his work teaching “Mathematical Modeling in Biology and Medicine.” Corina Tarnita, director of the Program in Environmental Studies, lauded Staps’ teaching abilities and dedication. “Merlijn has a natural instinct and intuition for how to truly engage all students to be present and think critically about the material,” Tarnita said.

Students praised Staps’ patience and engaging strategies for explaining complex subjects. “I always felt that he was invested in guiding us to build up our own understanding of the concepts, rather than strictly dictating to us how we should learn and understand them,” according to one student. “Because he took the time to teach us about the basic logic behind statistical tests and not just how to use them, I feel I have a far better critical eye for reading scientific literature and a stronger sense of the proper role of statistical models in independent work,” another student said. 

 

Rajiv Sambharya

Rajiv Sambharya, who is a third-year Ph.D. student in operations research and financial engineering, served as an AI for “Optimization: Decision-Making in the Age of Computers.”

Sambharya went “above and beyond” in his teaching duties, said Assistant Professor of Operations Research and Financial Engineering Bartolomeo Stellato: “Rajiv has been extremely supportive and understanding with his students while being generous with his time,” offering extra review sessions, extended office hours and one-on-one meetings with students.    

Students were thankful for Sambharya’s meticulous preparation. “The students appreciated the depth of his notes and how his notes complemented what was taught in lecture, boosting our confidence in unfamiliar topics and solidifying other topics that we may have learned in the past,” one student said. 

 

Katelyn Randazzo

Katelyn Randazzo, a sixth-year Ph.D. student in chemical engineering and materials science, served as the Quin Morton ’36 Teaching Fellow in the Princeton Writing Program, teaching a writing seminar titled “Eureka! Moments” that examines the intersection between discovery narratives and the work of innovation. 

Amanda Irwin Wilkins, director of the Princeton Writing Program, said Randazzo teaches “by first building a bond, and then draws on that bond to lead her students to new depths of understanding and complexity. Katelyn has demonstrated remarkable skill at leading her students to cultivate their critical curiosity and to deepen their sense of why scholars research and write the way they do.”

Students commented that their writing had improved dramatically because of her in-depth comments on their papers and the extra time she spent with them. Her feedback “helped crystallize how to write a nuanced, arguable but also original thesis and how to put scholarly sources into conversation with each other without just parroting the ideas of the sources,” one student said.

 

Soojung Han 

Soojung Han is graduating in May with a Ph.D. in East Asian studies. She was nominated for her work as a co-instructor, with Professor of History and East Asian Studies Thomas Conlan, on the course “Medieval Asian Worlds: Korea, Japan, China, Inner and South Asia 300 CE-1700 CE.”

“Han is a naturally talented teacher, and a dedicated one as well, who always came to class with polished lectures,” Conlan said. He remarked that even shy students started asking questions in the class, a tribute to how comfortable Han made them feel. 

“Sooji’s informative and interactive lectures, coupled with her fantastic ability to mentor us and provide feedback on assignments, made me truly enjoy a topic that was relatively new to me,” wrote one student.  

 

Full list of 2022 Graduate Student Teaching Award recipients:

  • Tiffany Barron, Department of Politics
  • Jacqueline Campbell, Department of English
  • Perry Carter, Department of Politics
  • Juan Castro Vincenzi, Department of Economics
  • Chloe Cavanaugh, Department of Molecular Biology
  • Danielle Chase, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
  • Katherine Dennis, Department of Classics
  • Bernardo Gouveia, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
  • Soojung Han, Department of East Asian Studies
  • William Hofstadter, Department of Molecular Biology
  • Julie Kim, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Tamara Klajn, School of Public and International Affairs
  • Jessica LeGare, Department of East Asian Studies
  • Eric Manning, Department of Politics
  • Collin McManus, Department of Molecular Biology
  • Daniel Morrison, Department of Economics
  • Dong Woo Noh, Department of Economics
  • Lindsay Ofrias, Department of Anthropology
  • Karem Oktar, Department of Psychology
  • Katelyn Randazzo, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
  • James Roggeveen, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
  • Rajiv Sambharya, Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering
  • Joanna Schneider, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
  • Carolina Seigler, Department of Sociology
  • Shelby Sinclair, Department of History
  • Merlijn Staps, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Karina Tachihara, Department of Psychology
  • Grega Ulen, Department of Comparative Literature
  • Alejandro Virue, Department of Spanish and Portuguese