Graduate College in summer

Graduate students honored for excellence in teaching

May 19, 2021 2:12 p.m.

The Graduate School has presented 34 graduate students with its annual Teaching Awards in recognition of their outstanding abilities as teachers.

This year, given the significant contributions made by many graduate student assistants in instruction (AIs) as the University transitioned to remote education, additional prizes were awarded. See below for the full list of awardees.

Winners were selected by a committee chaired by Cole Crittenden, deputy dean and acting dean of the Graduate School, and composed of the academic affairs deans and staff from the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning. The nominations were made by academic departments and programs. Each winner receives $1,000.

The selection committee recognized a student from each of the four divisions with a special commendation. They are Nick Caggiano (engineering), Matthew Cocci (social sciences), RL Goldberg (humanities) and Mira Nencheva (natural sciences).

Liora Selinger was honored with the Quin Morton Graduate Teaching Award for instructors in the Princeton Writing Program.

Nick Caggiano

Nick Caggiano

Nick Caggiano

Nick Caggiano is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in chemical and biological engineering. He has been an AI twice for “Design, Synthesis and Optimization of Chemical Processes.”

Caggiano “was single-handedly responsible for the success of the course in achieving its educational objectives,” said Athanassios Panagiotopoulos, the Susan Dod Brown Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering and department chair. Panagiotopoulos cited Caggiano’s “enthusiasm, love of learning, and willingness to listen carefully and address all issues at the appropriate level of detail.”  

Students praised Caggiano for being available at odd hours to answer questions. “Nick provided amazing support to his students beyond what is expected of a typical AI,” said one student, who found Caggiano was “always patient and approachable.”

Matthew Cocci

Matthew Cocci

Matthew Cocci

Matthew Cocci, a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate in economics, has served as an AI for several courses, including “Econometric Theory II” and “Fixed Income Models and Applications.”

Cocci “went well beyond the call of duty,” said Yacine Ait-Sahalia, the Otto A. Hack ’03 Professor of Finance and professor of economics. “He worked tirelessly to help his students, which they recognized; many commented to me how incredibly helpful he had been to them.”

“I have never met a more dedicated teacher,” one student said. “He was patient, always willing to help.”

RL Goldberg

RL Goldberg

RL Goldberg

RL Goldberg is graduating this month with a Ph.D. in English. Goldberg was nominated for their work co-teaching “Queer Literatures: Theory, Narrative and Aesthetics” with Christina Leon, assistant professor of English, who described Goldberg as “an incredibly dynamic and responsive teacher. RL disarmed students with their wit, charm and approachability — relating their own process of reading difficult theory and sharing humorous stories about missteps in class as an undergrad.”

Students commented on Goldberg’s ability to connect students with the material. “RL was an amazing instructor whose approach to learning alongside us (rather than transferring knowledge to us from the ‘top down,’ so to speak) was crucial to my engagement in/enjoyment of this course,” said one student.

Mira Nencheva

Mira Nencheva

Mira Nencheva

Mira Nencheva is a third-year Ph.D. student in psychology. She was nominated for her work as head AI for “Social Psychology.”

Diana Tamir, associate professor of psychology, called Nencheva “an intuitive teacher. She anticipates her students’ needs and develops materials perfectly tailored for optimal learning.” Tamir also cited Nencheva’s work leading the design of active online-learning activities that were implemented across all the precepts for the class.

Students said Nencheva fostered a collaborative and supportive environment in class. “By far the most important thing that Mira does as a teacher is listen,” one student said. “She cares for her students and pushes us to think critically about what we are taught.”

Liora Selinger

Liora Selinger

Liora Selinger

Liora Selinger, a seventh-year Ph.D. student in English, served as the Quin Morton ’36 Teaching Fellow in the Princeton Writing Program, teaching a writing seminar titled “Curiosity” that examines numerous aspects of intellectual and scientific curiosity.  

Amanda Irwin Wilkins, director of the Princeton Writing Program, said Selinger “has distinguished herself as a teacher who channels deep reflectiveness about her own experience as a writer into a passion for teaching writing. Liora’s intellectual generosity, her readiness to join students as a partner in discovery and her gift for fostering community around the writing process have made her a standout teacher.”

Students commented that their writing — from how they craft a thesis to how they tackle revisions — had improved noticeably after working with Selinger. “She was so thoughtful with her comments, and it was clear she wanted us to succeed because she always made herself available to her students in case we sought help,” one said.

Full list of 2021 Graduate Student Teaching Award recipients:

Olaoluwatoni (Toni) Alimi, Department of Religion

Nick Caggiano, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering

Emily Cantrell, Department of Sociology

Matthew Cocci, Department of Economics

Ameet Deshpande, Department of Computer Science

Nicholas Falcone, Department of Chemistry

Erin Flowers, Department of Astrophysical Sciences

Will Freeman, Department of Politics

RL Goldberg, Department of English

Moriah Hughes, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Delanyo (Dela) Kpo, Department of Politics

Sadhika Surya Malladi, Department  of Computer Science

Alejandro Martínez Rodríguez, Department of Spanish and Portuguese

Michal MasnyDepartment of Philosophy

Laura Matthews, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures

Dan McGee, Department of Economics

Isabela Muci Barradas, Department of Art and Archaeology

Matthew Myers, Department of Computer Science

Mary Naydan, Department of English

Mira Nencheva, Department of Psychology

Bendeguz Offertaler, Department of Physics

Alejandro Schugurensky, Department of Sociology

Liora Selinger, Department of English

Andrew Shapiro, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Bernard Shee, Department of East Asian Studies

João Thereze Ferreira, Department of Economics

Christopher Ushay, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering

Chloé Vettier, Department of French and Italian

Derek Wakefield, Department of Politics

Elliot WilsonDepartment of Classics

Jessica Womack, Department of Art and Archaeology

Zhi Jiang (Tony) Ye, Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering

Hongtao Zhong, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Chengjie Zhu, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Commencement 2021