Graduate students honored for excellence in teaching

May 31, 2005, 12:39 p.m.

The Princeton Graduate School has given awards to five graduate students in recognition of their dedication and effectiveness in teaching.

The annual Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni Teaching Awards are sponsored by the graduate alumni and are selected by the Graduate School administration. The four 2005 winners are: David Ball of the English department, Daniel Baumann of the physics department, Katie Gallagher of the politics department and Matt Hibbs of the computer science department.

A fifth student, Geoffrey Goodwin of the psychology department, received the Friends of the International Center Excellence in Teaching Award, which is given annually to an international graduate student.

Ball, a fifth-year student, served as a preceptor not only in his home department of English, but also in the Program in American Studies and the Program in the Study of Women and Gender. A graduate of Stanford University, he worked as a tutor and writing partner in Princeton's Writing Center and co-led a senior thesis writing workshop. Students praised his enthusiasm and dedication as well as his welcoming consideration of different viewpoints. "Dave always encouraged our class to challenge our previous conceptions of things, and over the course of the semester my critical thinking and analysis improved significantly," said one student.

Baumann, who came to Princeton two years ago, received his undergraduate degree from the University of Cambridge. At Princeton, he served as preceptor for "Introduction to Contemporary Physics," which is intended for non-science majors. This past fall, the course was retooled with new lectures, homework problems and laboratory experiments. The professor who led the class said Baumann "took on an extremely challenging assignment and far exceeded expectations in every regard." One student said that Baumann "proved to be very capable at explaining difficult concepts to students without the physics-based mindset that is often necessary to thoroughly understand the discipline."

Gallagher, a third-year student, earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard University. She served as a preceptor for "Global Justice." Faculty members said she "went beyond normal precepting requirements," citing as an example her creation of a "paper exchange," through which students provided feedback on early drafts of one another's writing. Students praised her grasp of the subject matter: "Katie really helped to clarify what could often be extremely dense and complicated material by striking a great balance between mapping out concepts on the board and also striking up and shaping debate among the students in the class."

Hibbs came to Princeton three years ago from the University of Texas-Austin. He served as a preceptor for "Integrative Science," a new interdisciplinary course taught by eight faculty members from four departments. Several of these faculty members commented, "Matt was indispensable -- he created and taught excellent precepts that emphasized important, difficult and interesting concepts in computer science, and included in his lectures elements of biology and physics that tied computer science to other aspects of the course." Students praised his "superhuman patience," "total commitment to the class" and "incredible approachability."

Goodwin, a fourth-year student from Australia, earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Queensland. He served as a preceptor for "Introduction to Psychology," "Psychology of Thinking" and "Social Interaction and Influence." Faculty members commended his enthusiasm and his ability to provide clear explanations of complex ideas. One student wrote, "Geoff is the ideal grad student that Woodrow Wilson must have had in mind when he created the precept system."