Two to receive Phi Beta Kappa teaching awards

May 28, 2009, 12:20 p.m.

Sanjeev Kulkarni, professor of electrical engineering, and Anthony Grafton, the Henry Putnam University Professor of History, will be honored by the Princeton chapter of Phi Beta Kappa with its annual awards for excellence in undergraduate teaching.

The awards will be presented at the Phi Beta Kappa induction ceremony, which will be held at 9 a.m. Monday, June 1, in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall, prior to the Class Day ceremony.

Princeton students elected to the academic honor society have selected recipients of the teaching prize annually since 2004. The students defined the criteria for excellence in teaching as: skill in instruction; commitment to working with and building relationships with undergraduates; and ability to spark students' intellectual interests. Each winner is presented with a plaque.

Kulkarni, a Princeton faculty member since 1991, has taught a broad range of courses in electrical engineering, computer science, philosophy, and operations research and financial engineering, and has won several Excellence in Teaching Awards from the Undergraduate Engineering Council. He also has served as master of Butler College since 2004.

Kulkarni formerly served as associate dean for academic affairs in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, where he has been a longtime freshman adviser. He is an affiliated faculty member of the Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering and the Department of Philosophy.

In his recommendation, senior Chris Baldassano wrote that Kulkarni is "universally loved by his students" and that "his approach to formal instruction is one that should be emulated by every professor." 

Baldassano added, "As the master of Butler College, he is massively popular with the Butlerites and frequently stops to ask us about our classes and extracurricular activities. ... Professor Kulkarni is the kind of teacher, adviser and friend who makes his students proud to go to Princeton."

Grafton has been a Princeton faculty member since 1975. He has taught both undergraduate and graduate courses on art, magic and science in Renaissance Europe and on the history of books and readers; undergraduate seminars on historiography; and the history components of the intensive four-course introduction to Western civilization offered to undergraduates by the Program in Humanistic Studies.

Grafton was the first director of the freshman seminar program and is the former chair of the Council of the Humanities. He is affiliated with the Program in History of Science.

Senior Will Sullivan, in his recommendation, wrote, "Anthony Grafton lives the humanistic tradition that he teaches."

"The most remarkable thing to me about Professor Grafton is not so much his polymathic brilliance on its own -- this is a man who can talk about Dutch grammar, Richard Strauss and 'Twin Peaks' in practically the same sentence -- but how his intelligence brings alive the full range of the humanities in every seminar," Sullivan wrote. "His skill in leading discussions is nothing short of magical: All it takes is a glance from him to get a class to launch into intense debate about the difference between history and fiction or the meaning of the humanities for contemporary society."