Penn Arts & Sciences 2020 Teaching Awards


Penn Arts & Sciences announces the following recipients of its 2020 teaching awards:

Ira H. Abrams Memorial Award for Distinguished Teaching

This year’s recipients of the School’s highest teaching honor are Paul Goldin, Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, and Mark Goulian, Charles and William L. Day Distinguished Professor in the Natural Sciences in the Department of Biology. Created in 1983, the Ira H. Abrams Award recognizes teaching that is intellectually challenging and exceptionally coherent and honors faculty who embody high standards of integrity and fairness, have a strong commitment to learning, and are open to new ideas.

Goldin is known for his contributions in shaping his department’s undergraduate curriculum and for his skillful and creative approach to engaging students in Introduction to Chinese Civilization. According a faculty colleague, "since his arrival at Penn, the undergraduate education in East Asian Languages and Civilizations has been transformed by his vision and his stellar ability to deliver the gateway course."  Goldin’s department chair agrees: "I can testify from personal experience how difficult it is to teach 3,000 years and more of Chinese culture in a way that is not ridiculously superficial or forbiddingly dense. That he has done it so successfully for so many years shows how much thought and effort he puts into teaching.”

Goulian's teaching engages students in the complex interdisciplinary areas of his research, which, astonishingly, range from theoretical physics to experimental molecular biology and microbiology. His students admire his energy and enthusiasm, his ability to engage them and explain difficult concepts, and his welcoming manner and approachability. His department chair reflects, "It takes true teaching talent and depth of knowledge to bring it all together and have the students come to an appreciation of the common thread of biological processes rather than seeing biology as a complex collection of a million facts. Clearly, Professor Goulian succeeds at this."

Dennis M. DeTurck Award for Innovation in Teaching

This award, which is named after Robert A. Fox Leadership Professor and former College dean Dennis DeTurck, recognizes exceptional creativity and innovation in instruction. The 2020 recipient is Philip Gressman, Professor of Mathematics. Students and faculty colleagues alike applaud Gressman for bringing a distinctive and innovative combination of active learning pedagogy (largely of his own design) and inclusive teaching methodologies to the teaching of calculus at Penn. A student in Math 104 called his active learning approach "the springboard for my success in the class."

Dean's Award for Mentorship of Undergraduate Research

This award, which recognizes faculty members who have excelled in nurturing undergraduate students' desires and abilities to conduct meaningful research, goes to Megan Kassabaum, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, for “her commitment to carving out a place for mentorship at a big research school like Penn.” One colleague explains: "In the field, she shows the students how to communicate with the professional community and with the interested public, funds their participation in conferences and meetings, and models respectful and ethical behavior to the descendent communities, local professionals, and each other."

Dean’s Award for Distinguished Teaching by an Assistant Professor

This award recognizes a member of the junior faculty who demonstrates unusual promise as an educator. The 2020 recipient is Jennifer Ponce de León, Assistant Professor of English, who has established Latinx studies on a secure basis in her department, covering the field of Latinx studies across the spectrum of literary and visual culture. Despite—or because of—the high expectations Ponce de León sets, Penn students find her classes riveting, innovative, and life-altering. An undergraduate writes: "I personally think that everyone who finished the course came out a changed student and thinker."

Dean’s Award for Distinguished Teaching by Affiliated Faculty

Deborah Burnham, Lecturer and Associate Undergraduate Chair of English, and Andria Johnson, Senior Lecturer of History and Sociology of Science, are the recipients of this award, which recognizes the contributions to undergraduate education made by the School's non-standing faculty.

Burnham’s students and faculty colleagues laud her gifts as an advisor, her “genius” course design, and her use of the classroom as “a vital space of learning and discovery, with a core sense of the wonder of literary expression." According to the department chair, "[Burnham’s] courses form the backbone of our offerings in English, and the sheer number of ways in which she has served our undergraduate program is incalculable.”

Johnson's students and faculty colleagues praise her courses for their intellectual rigor, exceptional lucidity, and highly interactive nature. A faculty member declares, "She has strong and creative instincts about how undergraduates learn best. She is very pragmatic about engaging students in class discussions, tailoring and grading assignments, and shaping syllabi so that they are interesting and challenging ... quite simply, Johnson is a master teacher."

College of Liberal and Professional Studies Award for Distinguished Teaching in Undergraduate and Post-Baccalaureate Programs

Philip Gehrman, Lecturer in Psychology in LPS and Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology in the Perelman School of Medicine, is the recipient of this award, which recognizes outstanding teaching in LPS’s undergraduate and post-baccalaureate programs. In their letters and course evaluations, Gehrman's students show a deep appreciation for the clarity and goals of his classroom instruction. They recognize his genuine concern for student progress, frequently commenting on how “caring, understanding, and engaging” he is an instructor, and on his high level of engagement: "He really makes a three-hour long class fly by with his anecdotes ... and makes science approachable even for people like me who generally do not do well in science classes."

College of Liberal and Professional Studies Award for Distinguished Teaching in Professional Graduate Programs

The recipient of this award, which recognizes teaching excellence in LPS graduate programs, is Dana Kaminstein, Lecturer in Organizational Dynamics. As a stalwart faculty member of the Organizational Dynamics Program since 1997, Kaminstein has a reputation for being   challenging yet always encouraging and supportive as an instructor. One student describes the impact of his approach: "He offered firm guidance while expecting the very best work. He also valued and required that I consider what I learned about myself in the process."

Dean's Award for Distinguished Teaching by Graduate Students

This award recognizes graduate students for teaching that is intellectually rigorous and has a considerable impact on undergraduate students. This year's awardees are:

Todd Baker, Philosophy
Micah Del Rosario, English
Taylor Dysart, History and Sociology of Science
Stephen Hackler, Physics and Astronomy
Theodora Naqvi, Classical Studies
Gino Pauselli, Political Science
Makiki Reuvers, History
Mario Sassi, Romance Languages
Ellen Urheim, Mathematics
Zachary Zimmerman, Chemistry


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