Graduate students honored for excellence in teaching

The Princeton Graduate School will present awards to six graduate students in recognition of their outstanding abilities as teachers.

The annual Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni (APGA) Teaching Awards are sponsored by graduate alumni and are selected by Dean of the Graduate School William Russel. The five 2012 winners are William Holloway of the chemical and biological engineering department, Maria Korolev of the chemistry department, Iwa Nawrocki of the history department, Jolyon Thomas of the religion department and Joshua Vandiver of the politics department.

A sixth student, Bhadrinarayana Lalgudi Visweswaran of the electrical engineering department, will receive the Friends of the Davis International Center Excellence in Teaching Award, which is given annually to an international graduate student.

All will be honored at the APGA's Tribute to Teaching Reception on Saturday, June 2. Each winner will receive $1,000.

Holloway came to Princeton after receiving his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the University of California-San Diego in 2007. He is recognized for his work as an assistant in instruction for the course "Thermodynamics" in spring 2011. Athanassios Panagiotopoulos, the Susan Dod Brown Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, nominated Holloway and wrote that he "showed a deep understanding of the material, tremendous enthusiasm for teaching and was very generous with his time. He was universally loved by the students in return." Students commented that Holloway was "enthusiastic about teaching" and dedicated to making sure they understood the course's most essential components, with one writing that he "makes the material much more clear and is also really honest about what we should be understanding." Another said Holloway "is fantastic at breaking concepts down and leading students to think in a certain way to solve specific problems without giving too much away." Holloway expects to receive his Ph.D. at Commencement Tuesday, June 5.

Korolev has studied at Princeton since receiving her bachelor's degree in chemistry from Mount Holyoke College in 2007. She was a teaching fellow at the University's McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning from fall 2010 through spring 2012. Of the several courses she has taught at Princeton, Korolev is being recognized for her role as an assistant in instruction and head teaching assistant for "General Chemistry II" during the spring 2011 term. Korolev excelled both as a teacher and a leader, according to Professor of Chemistry Andrew Bocarsly, who wrote, "Not only is she a superb teacher of undergraduates, but she is an excellent teacher of teachers." Bocarsly noted that Korolev held both her students and the teachers under her to high standards that she then strove to help them achieve. "Her intentions were to increase her students' problem-solving skills, and to that end she was almost magical," he wrote. Regarding her leadership, he added, "I think of her as a coach who is greatly appreciated by the 'team' she trains." One of Korolev's students said, "As a freshman, I struggled last year with the transition to more difficult material in college, but thankfully Maria was there to both guide and support me through my educational journey." Korolev hopes to obtain her Ph.D. in 2013.

Nawrocki received her joint bachelor's degree in history and philosophy from McGill University in 2007 before coming to Princeton to study global and transnational history, with a focus on modern Latin America and Eastern Europe. Nawrocki is being honored for her assistance in teaching "A History of the World Since 1300" under the guidance of Jeremy Adelman, the Walter Samuel Carpenter III Professor in Spanish Civilization and Culture and professor of history. In nominating Nawrocki, Adelman noted her ability to engage the wide variety of students enrolled in the expansive course. "Getting students motivated and involved requires energy, devotion and an ability to range widely without being superficial. Iwa has all three," Adelman wrote. He commented on the exceptionally high course evaluations and compliments Nawrocki received from her students, writing, "Consider the keywords of her students: engaging, comfortable, thoughtful, clarifying, kind, helpful, encouraging. ... Exactly the vocabulary one wants to see in one's teaching assistant, Iwa delivers." One student, describing her dedication to teaching, wrote that Nawrocki "let me know when my initial work was not up to par, and she showed me what she expected of me in her class. Through her teaching I learned how to write an A-level history paper, and I feel very prepared for any history class to come." Nawrocki expects to complete her Ph.D. in 2015.

Thomas came to Princeton in 2008 after earning his master's degree in Asian religion from the University of Hawaii-Manoa. He received his bachelor's degree in religious studies from Grinnell College in 2001. Thomas is being recognized with the APGA award for his performance as an assistant in instruction for three Asian religion courses in the past three semesters: "Religions of China," "Buddhist World of Thought and Practice" and "Tibetan Buddhism." In nominating him, Professor of Religion Jacqueline Stone noted that although Thomas focuses his doctoral research on modern Japanese religion, he sought to teach these unrelated courses "in order to gain experience and broaden his teaching competencies, and because he genuinely loves teaching." The faculty members whose courses Thomas taught described him as a "meticulous, compassionate educator" who provided thoughtful responses to students and would work with professors to enhance course materials, lectures and lesson plans. One student said, "It's clear he spends ample amounts of time reviewing the material, preparing for precept, reading our papers and thinking about this class in general." Another wrote that Thomas "facilitates excellent conversations and I always leave precept with a deeper understanding of the material and with great new insights into the subject matter." Thomas expects to complete his Ph.D. in 2014.

Vandiver came to Princeton in 2005 after receiving his bachelor's degree in government from Harvard University in 2004 and attending the University of Oxford as the Lord Harlech Fellow at New College. Vandiver is being recognized for the two years he served as a Quin Morton Teaching Fellow in the Princeton Writing Program. In her nomination of Vandiver, writing program director Amanda Wilkins said that his "rigorous and practical" teaching style pushes students to base their writing on good, thorough research, yet to approach their work in a structured and efficient manner. She noted that Vandiver also has helped implement ways to improve the feedback students receive on their work. She also commended him for designing the popular course "The Ethics of Honor and Competition," which is based on Vandiver's doctoral research into the motivation and character of political leaders. "Smart and intellectually generous," Wilkins wrote, "Josh is a deeply engaged teacher who shows remarkable deftness in the classroom and insight working one-on-one with student writers. Outside of the classroom, he has assumed a number of leadership positions in the program." Students regularly comment on Vandiver's strength as a teacher and mentor, Wilkins said. One student wrote, "I really appreciate all the efforts Josh made not only working with a beginner, but making me reach a level where I can be confident about writing a paper." Vandiver expects to defend his dissertation this June.

Visweswaran began his study at Princeton in 2009 after receiving his bachelor's degree in engineering the same year from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science in India. He was awarded for being an assistant in instruction this semester for "System Design and Analysis," or "carlab," an intensive course centered around a semester-long project to design a computer-controlled vehicle. In nominating him, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering Andrew Houck wrote that Visweswaran went "well above and beyond the call of duty" in providing the expertise and attention students need to succeed in the "notoriously difficult" course: "He is in lab nearly every day, seven days a week, stopping by between his own experiments to check on students. He excels at helping students work through problems in their cars, really taking the time to delve into each project even when he himself doesn't immediately know what's wrong." Students described Visweswaran as an indispensible mentor. One student wrote, " Some of the times when we have really appreciated how much Bhadri does for the class is on the rare occasions when he is not there." Another commented, "There was a week when Bhadri was away on a trip, and life for us was just a bit more difficult." Visweswaran expects to receive his Ph.D. in 2014.