Five graduate students honored for excellence in teaching

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

The annual Teaching Awards are sponsored by the Graduate School and selected by Dean of the Graduate School William Russel and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Cole Crittenden.

The five winners are Alfredo Garcia of the sociology department, Jon Husson of the geosciences department, Danielle Meinrath of the classics department, Amelia Worsley of the English department, and Lu Xia of the operations research and financial engineering department.

All will be honored at the Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni's Tribute to Teaching Reception on Saturday, June 1. Each winner will receive $1,000.

Garcia came to Princeton in 2011 after earning a master's degree in theological studies from Harvard Divinity School. He received his bachelor's degree in biological anthropology and anatomy (with a second major in religious studies and a minor in chemistry) at Duke University in 2008. Garcia is being honored for his work as an assistant in instruction in the course "Money, Work and Social Life" in fall 2012. Viviana Zelizer, the Lloyd Cotsen '50 Professor of Sociology, nominated Garcia and wrote, "Aside from his brilliant intellectual talents as an instructor, what makes Alf stand out is his remarkable devotion to his students, his determination to turn each precept into a mini-community and his availability for consultation outside the classroom." Garcia taught the course's lectures on religion and markets, Zelizer said, and they were "a highlight of the semester: students were mesmerized by style and substance." One student praised his skills at "explaining dense material and synthesizing information," while another remarked that he "transfers his intellectual spark to his students" with his enthusiasm. Said another student: "Not only did he make the classes more engaging and interesting, but he made precept fun — something that is not always easy to do. After every precept, I felt not only a greater understanding of the class material, but a curiosity about the subjects we discussed, and a desire to learn more." Several faculty members and students praised his work as a preceptor for other courses, as well as his time volunteering with the University's Prison Teaching Initiative. Garcia expects to complete his Ph.D. in 2016.

Husson came to Princeton in 2009, and he received his bachelor's degree in earth and planetary science from Harvard University in 2008. He is being recognized for a wide range of teaching duties in the classroom, the lab and the field for the geosciences department. In his nomination letter, Assistant Professor of Geosciences Blair Schoene praised Husson's skills in the field during a one-week trip to California with the course "Structural Geology" in spring 2013. Wrote Schoene, Husson "understands how to make observations, assemble them carefully and formulate hypotheses regarding large-scale geologic structures. He was very adept at communicating and teaching these skills to students in the field." Undergraduate Laboratory Manager Laurel Goodell wrote that Husson was one of the best assistants in instruction that she had supervised in her 18 years in geosciences, adding that he was an "integral part" of the instructional teams for "Fundamentals of Solid Earth Science" in fall 2012 and for "Structural Geology" in spring 2013, developing problem sets and lab exercises, running weekly precepts and lab sessions, giving lectures, helping to run field trips, holding office hours and working with students one-on-one. A student who has worked closely with Husson in the lab wrote: "Jon takes the time to make sure that I know not only what I'm doing but also the significance of what I am doing in the lab. Jon's explanations are insightful and extremely clear, but best of all he makes geosciences research exciting and fun." Husson expects to complete his Ph.D. in 2014.

Meinrath came to Princeton in 2007 after earning a master's degree in Greek and Latin languages and literature from the University of Oxford that same year. She received her bachelor's degree in classics from the University of Cambridge in 2005. Meinrath is receiving the Teaching Award for her work as an assistant in instruction in "Introduction to Latin" in fall 2012, according to the nomination letter from Robert Kaster, the Kennedy Foundation Professor of Latin Language and Literature and a professor of classics. She has also received high marks from students and faculty for her precepting for the department's "Classical Mythology" course and serving as a Cotsen Teaching Fellow for the new course "Readings in Latin Literature: After Vergil: Transformation and Tradition in Latin Epic." Kaster commented on Meinrath's "scrupulous preparation" and "wonderfully successful classroom presence," which "both rivets the students' attention and makes them comfortable, forthcoming and responsive." Wrote one student: "Danielle's dedication to teaching continually motivated me to work hard for the class, and her explanation of the material was always clear and thorough. To top it all off, Danielle's awesome sense of humor and enthusiasm made each class session a truly pleasurable experience." Another student said, "She's meant to be a teacher — she has that patience, that affability, and most importantly, that humility that never makes you feel like you're asking a stupid question." Several students said that her teaching has encouraged them to continue studying Latin. Meinrath expects to complete her Ph.D. in 2014.

Worsley has studied at Princeton since earning a master's degree in English from Brown University in 2007. She received her bachelor's degree in English at Cambridge in 2006. She is being recognized for serving as a Quin Morton Teaching Fellow in the Princeton Writing Program this year. In her nomination of Worsley, writing program director Amanda Irwin Wilkins said that Worsley's interdisciplinary writing seminar on genius was the most popular course among freshmen this year, exceeding University and writing program averages for course evaluation scores. "Amelia has a gift for designing assignments and lesson plans that are both rigorous and appealing to first-year students," Wilkins wrote. In the classroom and in teaching conferences, Wilkins said, Worsley "has a knack for guiding students with poise and creativity as they develop their voices as writers." Worsley's students have complimented her commitment to helping them engage deeply with their ideas and craft complex, innovative and clear arguments. "On every paper I got back, Amelia had written extremely useful comments which both pointed out the strong areas of my arguments and where my arguments could be improved," one student wrote. Worsley expects to complete her Ph.D. in 2014.

Xia began her graduate studies at Princeton in 2010 after receiving her bachelor's degree in mathematics from the University of Virginia that same year. She is being honored for her performance as an assistant in instruction for the course "Fundamentals of Engineering Statistics," which she has assisted for four semesters. Sébastian Bubeck and Phillippe Rigollet, assistant professors of operations research and financial engineering, praised her reliability, her connection to students and her dedication to all aspects of instruction, from teaching precepts and holding office hours to grading homework and exams. "When asked about a particular student, she knows about his or her strengths and weaknesses at the top of her head," Rigollet said. Students praised her ability to explain complicated material; one wrote, "After attending her office hours, I felt like I actually understood the problems instead of just knowing the answers." In precepts, one student wrote, "Lu helps make the material very engaging by providing applicable examples and detailed descriptions of problems where the concepts we learned in class can be further implemented." Students also praised her availability; one student said, "As long as we wanted to learn, she was there to help." Several students who plan to teach noted that Xia demonstrated a teaching style they hope to emulate in their own careers. Xia expects to complete her Ph.D. in 2015.