College of LAS announces teaching and advising awards

Fourteen individuals will be honored later this spring
Main Quad
Fourteen individuals have received College of LAS teaching and advising awards this year.

The College of LAS has selected 14 professors, graduate students, lecturers, and an advisor as the recipients of the 2024 teaching and advising awards.

“We are proud to have such an impressive group of people advancing our vital teaching and advising goals,” said Venetria K. Patton, the Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of LAS. “We received exceptional feedback from students and alumni about them. They truly devote themselves to preparing others for the future.”  

Descriptions of the recipients follow:

LAS Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching for Graduate Teaching Assistants

Seongjoon Ahn is a graduate teaching assistant in the Department of Political Science. He runs discussion sections for Introduction to Politics, Introduction to Political Theory, and others, receiving excellent student evaluations. “Seongjoon painstakingly reviews lecture material, identifies what is missing, and develops lesson plans to close those gaps,” wrote Jeffery Mondak, James M. Benson Chair in Public Issues and Civic Leadership. “Seongjoon views a professor’s lectures as providing the broad strokes, and he views it as his job to add in the finer details.”

Annah Freudenburg is a graduate teaching assistant in the Department of English. She teaches composition courses that have standardized formats, but Freudenberg is known for keeping all of her classes new and interesting. Wrote student Jess Zhang, “Annah provides her students with a solid foundation in rhetoric through engaging writing exercises. She then builds upon this foundation, guiding students through various writing projects step-by-step. From brainstorming to refining arguments, organizing paragraphs, and citing sources, Annah is always open-minded and values our ideas.”

Lucía Sánchez-Gilbert is a graduate teaching assistant in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese. She has excelled at instructing at all levels, serving as the main instructor of 10 different Spanish classes, many of her own design. “Specific resources and skills (Sánchez-Gilbert) taught me in SPAN 228 have been essential to my current work as a translator for the University of Iowa Mobile Clinic writing flyers and emails to connect with our patients,” wrote former student Elisabeth Martin.

Lisa Louise Surber is a graduate teaching assistant in the Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior. She has taught a range of courses, from IB 104: Animal Biology to IB 302: Evolution and IB 329: Animal Behavior. Professor and department head Becky Fuller wrote that Surber possesses skills that make her an exceptional instructor. “Lisa has a strong work ethic and an amazingly positive outlook on all students,” Fuller wrote. “She believes to her core that all students can learn and achieve.”

Gabriela Tscholl is a graduate teaching assistant in the Department of Communication. She has taught some of the department’s most challenging courses. “Over and over in our 40-plus years of teaching in the Department of Communication, we have seen how graduate students who seem reserved, or perhaps more introverted than most, become the strongest teachers in their cohort. That’s been the case with Gabby. Gabby’s teaching is grounded in clear communication with students and thoughtful listening,” wrote professors Cara Finnegan and Leanne Knobloch. 

Walter Venerable III is a graduate teaching assistant in the Department of Psychology. He has taught and revised PSYC 238 (Psychopathology and Problems in Living) and PSYC 100 (Introductory Psychology). “I remember Walter taking the time to dissect with me my studying strategies, as well as taking the time to guide me through what I was emotionally struggling with,” wrote a former student, Stacey Renteria. “Walter gave me a safe space… where I was able to vent, recollect, and recommit to my goal.” 

LAS Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising

Stefan Djordjevic is associate director of undergraduate studies and director of advising in the Department of History. He receives much credit for growth and expansion in the undergraduate program, and he works with partners on and off campus to find student internships, develop curriculum policies, and other duties.  “I have never seen someone so passionately dedicated to the undergraduate experience and so willing to run through walls, grind through processes, and otherwise do anything and everything possible to help students,” wrote history professor Marc Hertzman.

LAS Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching for Instructional Staff

Konstantinos (Kostas) Kourtikakis is a teaching associate professor in the Department of Political Science. He teaches in the department and affiliated campus units, specializing in European politics. Kourtikakis has been on the list of teachers ranked as excellent 58 times. “I consider him to be an integral component of my academic career, as he has helped me build the foundation of what I hope to be a long and meaningful career in foreign policy,” wrote a former student now at the U.S. State Department.

Julie Price is a lecturer in the Department of English. For more than 23 years she has taught poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, and a trauma writing workshop, which has become one of the department’s most-sought courses since she created it in 2016. “It’s taken me many years to find (my voice as a writer), but the spark began in Julie’s classroom nearly 20 years ago, and it’s stayed with me along the way,” wrote former student Steven Louie.

LAS Dean’s Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching

Brian Dill is a professor in the Department of Sociology. He is known for sustained excellence, innovative teaching, and fostering diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. “I have watched Professor Dill transform what I thought would be boring lecture material into a vibrant and engaged lecture. He seems to have a gift for connecting students to new information in diverse ways so as to ‘cover all the bases’ and engage students who possess different learning styles,” wrote Reuben May, head of the Department of Sociology.

Alex Harmon-Threatt is a professor in the Department of Entomology. She has become one of the most engaged and sought-after instructors and research mentors in the School of Integrative Biology and has become known for eliciting high levels of engagement and participation even in large lecture courses. “I reflect on my experiences with her often when … consulting with my own students and research assistants, hoping to capture the same excitement and dedication that she demonstrated regularly,” wrote a former student, Nicole Wonderlin.

Prashant Jain is the G. L. Clark Professor of Physical Chemistry. He teaches lecture and laboratory courses in physical chemistry, which are commonly regarded with anxiety by undergraduates. Jain has consistently received excellent teaching evaluations, however, as he makes the subject matter engaging through innovative teaching techniques and dedication. “Because he loves the subject himself I was able to enjoy the subject more as well,” one student wrote in support of Jain’s nomination.

Hina Nazar is a professor in the Department of English. Her teaching has proven successful at every aspect of the Department of English’s literature curriculum. Her teaching evaluations were remarkable even during online-only phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. Alumna Chelsea Hill wrote that Nazar let students know “that she cared about our lives, and wanted to help us not only connect with the material, but succeed in the face of ... the depression, anxiety, loneliness, and illness.”

Charee Thompson is a professor in the Department of Communication. She teaches CMN 462: Interpersonal Health Communication, which examines how people talk about physical and mental health. She has received stellar teaching evaluations even in the midst of the pandemic; in fall 2020 she received perfect evaluation scores for teaching effectiveness and course quality. “Dr. Thompson is always joyous, understanding, and very organized,” wrote a student, Lonye Allen. “She makes the room comfortable with the vibrant energy she brings.”

Editor's note: Lucía Sánchez-Gilbert, Gabriela Tscholl, Walter Venerable III, Alex Harmon-Threatt, Prashant Jain, Konstantinos (Kostas) Kourtikakis, Julie Price, and Charee Thompson received the Campus Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching announced on April 15. Katy Heath, professor of plant biology, received the Campus Award for Excellence in Guiding Undergraduate Research.

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Dave Evensen