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Nine Faculty Members Honored with Teaching Recognition Award
Nine faculty members were announced in May as recipients of the 2019-20 Meredith Teaching Recognition Award.
Seven faculty members were awarded in the Early Performance category: Walter Freeman, Juliet Golden, Jennifer Grygiel, Fatma Sonmez-Leopold, Shannon Sweeney, Po Tung (Douglas) Yung and Teng Zeng. Two faculty members, Jonna Gilfus and Robert Nassau, were recognized in the Continuing Performance category.
The Teaching Recognition Award, sponsored by the Meredith Professors, highlights non-tenured faculty members. The award recognizes excellence in teaching and encourages a culture of superior teaching among faculty members.
Each year, up to seven Teaching Recognition Awards for Early Performance may be given, reflecting a mix of non-tenured, tenure-track faculty; teaching professors (of any rank); professors of practice; and adjunct and part-time instructors. Up to two Teaching Recognition Awards for Continuing Excellence may be given each year to non-tenured, non-tenure-track teaching professors (of any rank); professors of practice; and adjunct and part-time instructors who have five or more years teaching experience at Syracuse University.
This year’s recipients are:
Early Performance Award
- Walter Freeman, assistant teaching professor of physics in the College of Arts and Sciences, has been a member of the Syracuse University community for five years. His students describe him as “engaging,” “enlightening” and “encouraging.” Freeman teaches classes of 300-600 students regularly in introductory physics. He is noted to be caring and inspires students to continue into the next physics courses. His students have found him so helpful that they regularly turn to him for support, and he began a weekly study session for those students—in a course he had not ever taught. He frequently recruits previous students as peer instructors and attributes much of the success in these large classes to the talents and hard work of those undergraduate peer coaches.
- Juliet Golden is the director and a core curriculum professor for the Syracuse Abroad Central Europe Program. She has been engaged in developing study abroad programs in Central Europe since 2007. For her pedagogical design work for Syracuse Abroad, in 2016, she received the Award for Excellence in Education Abroad Curriculum Design by the Forum on Education Abroad—the most prestigious pedagogical award in the field of international education. Her deep interest in the history of Central Europe developed through research and her journalistic work in the region. Her interests include politics of memory, the Holocaust, urban spaces and architecture, and public health. Golden’s nominator highlighted the ways that she fosters students’ critical thinking skills and emphasizes the importance of attending to history as a foundation for understanding contemporary politics and society. Golden’s students have noted how much work she does with them outside of the classroom to make them successful. Due to her influence, they have gone on to prestigious internships and graduate programs.
- Jennifer Grygiel, assistant professor of communications in the Newhouse School, has been with the University since 2015. In 2016, Grygiel took first place in the Best Practices in Ethics in an Emerging Media Environment teaching competition, sponsored by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) Elected Committee on Teaching. That same year, Grygiel launched a new innovative course in partnership with Buzzfeed, which teaches future media skills to Newhouse undergraduate and graduate students. Grygiel is an affiliated faculty member with the College of Arts and Sciences’ Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Studies Minor Program. “Professor Grygiel has made it clear to all of their students throughout my college experience that their door is always open,” says one student. “For a college student, it is extremely valuable to have a professor that you know will always be there for you beyond the completion of a course.”
- Fatma Sonmez-Leopold is an assistant teaching professor of finance in the Whitman School and an adjunct professor of communications management in the Newhouse School. She joined the Syracuse University faculty in fall 2017. She teaches courses in managerial finance, investment analysis and fixed income securities and principles, and is the coordinator for the core course Corporate Finance. Her students and colleagues hold Sonmez-Leopold in very high regard for her teaching and scholarship. Students seek her out for advice for job interviews and making decisions when they receive internship and job offers. She has, according to her nominator, “set an example for other faculty members to follow.” Sonmez-Leopold was recently chosen as one of the Top 50 Undergraduate Business Professors 2020 by Poets and Quants.
- Shannon Sweeney, assistant teaching professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences, has been with the psychology department since 2017. She teaches Foundations of Human Behavior, Psychology of Childhood and Pediatric Psychology. According to her nominator, “she demonstrates a unique ability to connect with every student and encourages them to fulfill their potential by making learning fun,” and she “seeks to awaken greatness in her students.” She also focuses on transferring theory to practice and in so doing provides her students with a strong foundation for their own practices in psychological service delivery.
- Pun To (Douglas) Yung is an assistant teaching professor in biomedical and chemical engineering in the College of Engineering and Computer Science. In his three years at Syracuse University, he has redesigned five courses and labs to incorporate specific software tools and enhance continuity for students. He has engaged multi-disciplinary teams of students in “extended” design projects, mentoring 23 teams for three years. Students comments included how seriously Yung takes their comments about how they learn and what they need to have to be more successful. He has implemented changes to the curriculum to respond to their suggestions. “He challenged us with a semester-long group project where we applied the information from lectures and reading towards real-world situations, which greatly helped students in understanding the material,” one student says. Yung’s colleagues and his students point to his positive attitude and infectious motivation that spreads to all students in his program.
- Teng Zeng is an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering and Computer Science. He has been at Syracuse University for four years. Zeng has reworked his courses to include field trips to local drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities. He serves as a research mentor for high school, undergraduate and graduate students, and his peers note that all of his students benefit from his careful and thoughtful tutelage and his high standards. “He is a professor that engages with his students to encourage them to become better engineers and stewards of the environment,” says one student. “He is a professor that uses every opportunity to encourage his students to make positive impacts on the world beyond Syracuse University.”
- Jonna Gilfus is an assistant teaching professor and director of undergraduate studies in writing studies, rhetoric and composition in the College of Arts and Sciences. She has been with the University since 1999. According to her students, she builds community in her courses and generates “positive increase in good energy” in class. Even students who don’t like writing have found that Gilfus’ class changes their opinions and that her ability to create this positive energy in the class changes their perspectives. Students regard the learning from her classes as important in their lives and professional careers.
- Robert Nassau is a teaching professor, associate director of the Office of Clinical Legal Education, and director of the Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic in the College of Law. In his 25 years at Syracuse University, he has become a sought-after instructor who convinces his students to love tax law. “What sets Professor Nassau apart from other professors is that he does not view his position as a day job; rather, he is involved in students’ lives,” one student says. “In fact, he has such contagious enthusiasm that his love of teaching and tax is readily apparent.” Others note his willingness to organize extracurricular activities that fosters a culture of collaboration and friendliness among his students.