2021 TA Awards honor teachers making a positive impact in and out of the classroom

Using new technology to innovate lesson plans. Reducing anonymity in the classroom to engender a sense of community. Carrying greenhouse plants across campus so students can actually feel the leaves and smell the flowers. Facilitating programs designed to better meet the needs of young children experiencing homelessness. These are just some of the innumerable ways the 2021 Campus-Wide Teaching Assistant Award winners have made a positive impact at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and beyond.

​​UW–Madison employs over 2,100 teaching assistants (TAs) across its 200-plus undergraduate major and certificate programs. Whether teaching in lecture halls, classrooms, and labs on campus or leading learning opportunities in the wider community, their work is vital to fulfilling the university’s educational mission and the Wisconsin Idea. To recognize the excellence of TAs at UW–Madison, the Graduate School supports the College of Letters & Science (L&S) in administering these awards.

TAs are honored across six categories including a new award this year, the Excellence in Community-based Learning Teaching Award. This category recognizes TAs who have demonstrated outstanding instruction using a community-based learning approach.

Please join in celebrating the following winners of the 2021 Campus-Wide TA Awards. Learn more about each awardee in the bios below.

Early Excellence in Teaching Award

  • Zada Ballew, History
  • Soyun Park, Sociology
  • Rachel McClure, Astronomy
  • Riley Hale, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Exceptional Service Award

  • Vaishnavi Tripuraneni, Environmental Studies
  • Kai Prins, Communication Arts
  • Christopher Hulshof, History

Innovation in Teaching Award

  • Elaine Cannell, English
  • Luis Gryffin Loya, School of Journalism & Mass Communications
  • Ethan Parrish, Geoscience
  • Amanda Gates Carlson, School of Business

Capstone PhD Teaching Award

  • Kurt W. Kuehne, Sociology
  • Kerem Morgül, Sociology
  • Ziwei Wang, Economics
  • Rosemary Kaiser, Economics

Dorothy Powelson Teaching Assistant Award

  • MaryGrace Erickson, Animal & Dairy Sciences
  • Ben Iuliano, Entomology
  • Evan Eifler, Botany
  • Jorge Antonio De Los Santos Funes, Animal & Dairy Sciences
  • Jacob Kraus, Integrative Biology

Excellence in Community-based Learning Teaching Award

  • Chase Ochrach, Counseling Psychology

Early Excellence in Teaching Award Winners

Zada Ballew

Zada BallewZada is a PhD student in the Department of History and an enrolled citizen of the Pokégnek Bodéwadmik (Pokagon Band of Potawatomi). Her research chronicles a forgotten history of land claims and land acknowledgements involving the Pokégnek Bodéwadmik and settlers in the Midwest at the turn of the 20th century.

Zada has taught for American Environmental History; American Indian History; Who is an American?; and Slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction.

“My goal as a teacher is to make history accessible and compelling for students from diverse majors and backgrounds,” Zada said. “I strive to transform our classroom into a community, where students can feel comfortable and confident exchanging ideas and participating in thought-provoking dialogue. It’s my hope that students learn to question how we got to where we are today, to consider who is (and is not) included in the stories we tell, and to think critically about our shared history to ensure that our shared future is an equitable one.”

Soyun Park

Soyun ParkSoyun is a PhD student in the Department of Sociology focusing on work, organizations, and economic sociology. She is particularly interested in factors that explain labor market inequality, specifically examining how parenthood and parental leave policies lead to different labor market outcomes.

While at UW, Soyun has enjoyed being a TA for courses within the Department of Sociology, specifically Statistics for Sociologists II and III.

Soyun believes there are three major parts to the way she leads a classroom. “My teaching philosophy focuses on creating an inclusive and safe environment to help students at all stages, teaching in an engaging and relatable way so that students can build a bridge between scholarship and everyday experiences, and finally instilling excitement by extending my positive energy to them,” she said.

This philosophy, Soyun noted, has been affected by teaching in the era of COVID-19. “As I started teaching during the pandemic, the physical and emotional isolation influenced my teaching philosophy,” she said. “I tried to place extra care into letting students know that I was always there for them and providing various channels to maintain contact throughout the semester.”

Rachel McClure

Rachel McClureRachel is a graduate student in the Department of Astronomy. Her work focuses on understanding the orbital populations that comprise features associated with bars in disk galaxies through studying the orbits in large number n-body simulations.

At UW, Rachel has been a TA for the astronomy course The Dark Side Of The Universe: The Great Cosmic Mysteries From Black Holes To Dark Energy. During her undergraduate career, Rachel also taught discussion sections associated with an introductory astronomy course and developed lesson plans for elementary and middle school science courses.

“My teaching philosophy is centered on authenticity,” Rachel said. “When I enter the classroom to teach, this means bringing my whole self into that space so I can be present with my students and they can be their genuine selves in both their questions and their contributions. An essential but delicate piece of facilitating a cohesive learning environment is to develop community within the classroom — and for that community to be real, people need to engage authentically, and as the instructor I must also engage authentically to ask this of my students. It is my goal that each student finishes the course better prepared to learn and to engage within the formal classroom and also in the world outside the halls of academia.”

In shaping this teaching philosophy, Rachel credits both her undergraduate coursework in the School of Education at University of Colorado at Boulder as well as participating in the Delta Program in the Graduate School. “I have taken a series of Delta courses and workshops exploring case studies in learning communities, where I have further developed and clarified my evidence-based teaching practices while integrating anti-racist pedagogy into my methods,” she said. “I look forward to continuing to develop and grow as an educator throughout the rest of my time here at UW.”

Riley Hale

Riley HaleRiley is a master’s student in Environmental Engineering studying spatiotemporal dynamics of cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins in Lake Mendota. He is also a Graduate Research Assistant with McMahon Lab and a 2021 NSF GRFP Fellow.

While at UW, Riley has enjoyed being a teaching assistant for the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, teaching Environmental Engineering.

“I try to remember what I appreciated most about my favorite teachers,” said Riley about his own teaching philosophy. “Of course, I appreciate someone who knows the material, can explain complex concepts well, and puts effort into their teaching. But what makes the most difference as a student is having a teacher who is real — someone who I can tell cares about me and wants to help me succeed. That’s what I strive to be for my students. It’s easy to become objective and dispassionate in STEM, but I find students learn better when they can relate material to the real world. Engineering does not happen in a vacuum, so I think it’s incredibly important to teach engineering within the context of our complex society.”

Exceptional Service Award Winners

Vaishnavi Tripuraneni

Vaishnavi TripuraneniVaishnavi is a PhD student in Environment and Resources at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. Her research interests include agrarian political economy, political ecology, people-environment interactions, conservation, and sustainable livelihoods. Her dissertation explains the role of debt in small farmer lives and livelihoods in south India.

During her time at UW, Vaishnavi has enjoyed teaching introductory Environmental Studies courses, both Social Science and Humanistic perspectives, as well as Global Environmental Health: An Interdisciplinary Introduction and Introductory Ecology.

“As a teacher, I strive towards four main goals in my classroom,” explained Vaishnavi. “One, creating a safe, welcoming, and respectful space where students feel comfortable to express their ideas; two, opportunities for thinking critically; three, treating students as individuals with agency, and incorporating their ideas, values, and diversity into the discussion; and four, communicating ideas and knowledge including both core concepts and contextual information. My experiences as a teaching assistant, primary instructor, and graduate student at UW–Madison have shaped these goals and have also demonstrated that teaching students what to learn is often secondary to teaching students how to learn.”

Kai Prins

Kai PrinsKai is a PhD student studying Rhetoric, Politics, and Culture in the Department of Communication Arts. Kai studies gendered performances of and resistance to normativity and neoliberalism on the drag stage, in online fitness and wellness spaces, and in consumer advertising and corporate marketing.

Kai has enjoyed being a TA for Communication Arts courses such as Communication and Human Behavior, as well as a member of the DesignLab. Some of Kai’s favorite projects within these roles have been writing new assignments, collaborating on lesson plans, and developing teaching tools for future TAs.

“I have been teaching since I was a teenager and even ran the theatre department of a public high school when I was 21,” said Kai. “I taught acting classes to students as young as five and as old as 18, and it taught me early on how important it is to make a classroom into a space of honesty, curiosity, and play. This involves becoming responsive to students’ varying learning styles, emotional needs, and interests and providing support and encouragement as they learn how to communicate both onstage and off. In the university classroom, I take the same approach. I see my students as whole human beings and not just participants in a single discussion section. We are partners in discovering how to best harness their experiences, needs, and skills and translate them into successful participation in the classroom, and we work together to turn lessons into opportunities to get curious about the world while making their readings and lectures both applicable to and tangible within their own lives. I believe in and practice honesty, accountability, and care both in my classroom and outside of it, and I look for and cherish opportunities to become not just a teacher, but a mentor as well.”

Christopher Hulshof

Christopher HulshofChristopher is a student of history primarily interested in the proliferation of imperial power during the 20th and 21st centuries. In particular, Christopher finds the reassertion of peripheral agency and diminishment of Western exceptionalism in transnational contexts quite compelling. Christopher’s current research focuses on the mechanisms of power simmering below official policies in Saigon-Washington-Paris tensions of the early 1950s and the Central Java-Washington-London axis of the 1960s.

“But ultimately,” Christopher explained, “I just like history. And it likes me.”

Christopher has taught multiple classes at UW, including History 246: Southeast Asian Refugees of the Cold War, History 319: The Wars in Vietnam, and History 375: The Cold Wars.

“The crux of my teaching philosophy revolves around the conscious effort to break down the hierarchical structures of academic relationships that risk stifling students’ educational experience,” explained Christopher. “As an instructor, I focus on relaying to students that I am in the instructor position because I have read more on a given subject and have more experience in academia, and thus I am in a position to help them. However, in no way am I more intelligent, more important, or better than them in any way — both teachers and students share in the same human experience and face the same challenges in their academic pursuits. By dismantling rigid hierarchies, students feel more comfortable to be honest with me and form personalized relationships. In doing so, the homogeneity of a classroom transforms into a bevy of individual students, each with their own skillsets, unique perspectives, personal goals for the course, and circumstances outside of the classroom which affect their educations. As such, I can tailor my instruction and feedback to the individual needs of each student to provide a more robust educational experience.”

Innovation in Teaching Award Winners

Elaine Cannell

Elaine CannellElaine is a PhD candidate in Literary Studies, specializing in performance studies, queer and feminist theory, and social movement literature of the 1970s. Elaine’s dissertation historicizes the reciprocal impact of performance art and drama on activism in American social movements.

Having taught several courses at UW, Elaine has especially enjoyed teaching Film & Literature and the second survey course for English majors, Literature from the 18th Century to the Present.

“My teaching philosophy emerges from three beliefs that all ultimately center community and collaboration,” Elaine said. “One, that fostering shared joy and trust in the classroom leads to a more inclusive and intellectually fruitful academic community; two, that students always have as much to learn from one another as they do from an instructor — if not more; and three, that the most effective teacher-student dynamic is a flexible and collaborative one.”

Elaine said she arrived at this philosophy through repeated experiences of surprise and joy as a teacher. “My students have taught me so much, and I strive to remain open to learning from them,” she said.

Luis Gryffin Loya

Gryffin LoyaGryffin is a PhD student in Journalism and Mass Communication where he studies political satire and how news coverage of protest affects public policy. His current project explores how humor can reduce polarization and out-group hostility. He is also part of a research team developing new inclusive approaches to journalism education.

Gryffin is the lead TA for Mass Communication Practices for the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where he helped move the course to remote instruction and adapt in-lab writing coaching to the virtual classroom. He also helps teach an online media fluency course in the summer. Before arriving in Wisconsin, he spent two years as a TA for courses on introductory communication theory and public speaking.

“My teaching philosophy centers on developing an inclusive classroom and helping students build confidence in their abilities,” said Gryffin. “Whether education serves to get a job or because it is simply fun in and of itself, it is an empowering experience. Teachers should acknowledge the systematic structural and social barriers that each student faces while also boosting students’ self-efficacy by recognizing their unique strengths.”

Ethan Parrish

Ethan ParrishEthan is a PhD candidate in the Department of Geoscience with broad interests in sedimentology and stratigraphy. More specifically, Ethan studies the Greater Green River basin in Wyoming, with a focus on what the lacustrine (lake) and fluvial (river) records within it reveal about global climate change 55 million years ago.

While teaching Introductory Geology, Sedimentology & Stratigraphy Lab, and Natural Hazards and Disasters, Ethan inspires his students to engage with geoscience by “digging deep.”

“As an educator I’m much more interested in a student’s affective engagement with curriculum than I am with their initial cognitive retention, because I think deeper learning is a natural outcome of emotional connection to content,” said Ethan. “I think we as educators too often put the cart before the horse as we try to teach students the nitty, gritty details prior to showing them the beauty of why we care. While I think our ability to inspire emotional connection to curriculum is limited only by our creativity as educators, I personally love the film medium. In both my own educational videos as well as those produced for tadada Scientific Lab, my goal is simply to leverage the potential artistry of film to inspire childlike awe in students and to show them the beauty of geoscience. In doing so, I hope to help them recognize their connection to this planet and to teach them that regardless of their academic pursuits, knowledge of this planet will enrich their lives.”

Amanda Gates Carlson

Amanda Gates CarlsonAmanda is a PhD student in Accounting and Information Systems in the School of Business, studying ways to improve audit quality and produce financial reporting that investors can trust. Her dissertation examines how statistical risk framing can help auditors make better probabilistic and predictive judgments related to revenue recognition.

Amanda has been a TA for several Accounting and Information Systems courses during her career at UW, and she has taught Auditing and Assurance Services as the instructor of record twice.

“I have a flexible teaching philosophy that responds to student feedback and understanding,” said Amanda. “If my students find a given topic, like statistical sampling, particularly challenging, I think of new ways to help them learn the material more effectively. In the past year, those techniques included a mastery-path quiz with refresher video links to help students revive their statistics knowledge and a list of the most common problems that students encounter in statistical sampling calculations. In addition, each semester that I have taught, I have aimed to improve my course by incorporating new technology, in-class activities and cases, and materials, particularly those related to recent audit and accounting technologies like data analytics and automated transactions.”

Amanda developed her teaching philosophy based on courses she enjoyed as a student and by reflecting upon her students’ learning experiences. For example, she has noticed how much her students enjoy working in a team environment on compelling cases and activities — an invaluable experience perfectly suited for her students’ future careers. “The team environment has the added benefit of exposing the students to new and diverse perspectives, and it mirrors the group work that they will encounter in their professional lives,” Amanda said.

Capstone PhD Teaching Award Winners

Kurt W. Kuehne

Kurt KuehneKurt is a PhD student in the Department of Sociology, focusing on transnational migration, precarious labor, and urban sociology. His primary research project examines migration and labor policies in Southeast Asia.

While at UW, Kurt has taught courses within the Department of Sociology on topics such as American Society as well as for the Letters & Science Career Initiative in courses that prepare students to enter the workforce with confidence. He also loves teaching teachers; he has trained new TAs and has helped TAs prepare for the transition to remote instruction.

“Each day I engage with students who are hungry to make a positive difference in this world,” said Kurt. “My goal is to help each student chart an individual path to do exactly that. As a philosophy, I embrace pedagogical transparency and flexibility. Whenever possible, I seek student input and affirmation for our classroom objectives. When undergraduates have a voice in their own learning, and feel that they too are responsible for the quality of the classroom community, they rise to that challenge in remarkable ways. I always strive to foster a democratic, engaged, and collaborative learning environment that connects directly to students’ personal and professional goals.”

Kerem Morgül

Kerem MorgulKerem is a political and cultural sociologist who studies populist politics, nationalism, and international migrants’ reception by and integration into their host communities. His dissertation investigates the official discourse on and public attitudes toward Syrian refugees in Turkey within the context of a populist and civilizationist “Muslim nation” project championed by President Erdoğan — a project that elevates Islam as the core element of Turkish national identity and promotes a neo-imperial vision of Turkey as the natural leader of Muslims, particularly in former Ottoman territories.

Kerem has taught a wide range of classes at UW–Madison, including Sociology of Race and Ethnicity in the United States, Criminal Justice in America, Methods of Sociological Inquiry, and Statistics for Sociologists I.

“My teaching has three overarching goals,” said Kerem. “One, to help students cultivate sociological imagination so that they can situate individual experiences within their institutional and socio-historical contexts; two, to teach students how social scientists produce knowledge so that they can critically evaluate published research; and three, to enhance students’ cultural competence so that they can successfully participate in a diverse and multicultural society.”

To achieve these goals, Kerem draws on active and experiential learning strategies and combines them with inclusive teaching practices. “Over the years, I have learned that effective teaching depends largely on building an inclusive learning community in which all participants feel valued and are able to openly discuss their views in a manner that is respectful of their peers’ ideas and backgrounds. Hence in my classes, I spend a good deal of time and effort to reduce anonymity among students through ice-breakers, small group activities, and student-led discussions. I also establish ground rules for having a productive conversation on controversial topics, encouraging students to see disagreements as an opportunity to learn about different perspectives.”

Ziwei Wang

Ziwei WangZiwei is a PhD candidate in Economics studying game theory, microeconomic theory, and information economics. His dissertation focuses on making predictions in various game-theoretic frameworks when being concerned about informational robustness.

Ziwei has taught introductory, intermediate, and also advanced microeconomics courses for eleven semesters at UW. Most of his time has been devoted to the two-course microeconomic theory sequence designed for master’s students in the Department of Economics.

“What I found most effective in motivating students is to explore and discover with them in classes,” said Ziwei. “Letting students feel that we are all learners and I am a member of them can have a significant impact. I take this as genuine rather than pedagogical — I always felt that regardless of the level of the course I taught, I learned something new and obtained a deeper understanding about the subject after each class. Moreover, I strongly believe that creating a sense of belonging for students is a cornerstone for effective teaching, especially in some introductory courses with more than four hundred people enrolled.”

Rosemary Kaiser

Rosemary KaiserRosemary is a PhD candidate in Economics at UW. Rosemary’s research interests are in macroeconomics and labor economics, and she will be joining Rutgers University as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics in the fall of 2022.

During her career at UW, Rosemary has taught Principles of Macroeconomics, Money and Banking, Essential Mathematics for Economists.

“My teaching roles at UW have helped me develop a teaching philosophy centered around fostering critical thinking, making economics accessible to all students, and encouraging the exploration of individual interests,” Rosemary said. “In every course, my goal is that all students finish the semester with a strong foundation in the tools needed to exceed in future economics courses and a deeper knowledge of the topics that interest them individually.”

Dorothy Powelson Teaching Assistant Award Winners

MaryGrace Erickson

MaryGrace EricksonMaryGrace is pursuing a PhD in Animal & Dairy Sciences. In addition to researching protein and nitrogen metabolism in lactating dairy cows, MaryGrace is interested in educational psychology and discipline-based educational research — more specifically, the development of critical constructivist science teaching modalities and assessment methods.

While at UW, MaryGrace has been a laboratory instructor for Animal Science 101: Introduction to Animal Sciences and served as a TA in multiple Dairy Science courses.

“When I began my teaching assistantship at UW, I was refreshed to find a community who shared a similar goal as I do,” said MaryGrace. “I want to teach in a way that invites participation, welcomes diversity, and illustrates science as dynamic and socially-embedded. As a humanist, I believe that people have a natural tendency to self-actualize and seek meaningful learning. When learners’ motivation is lacking, this is often the result of cultural, structural, or contextual barriers to engagement. As a cognitive constructivist, part of my teaching practice involves identifying and overcoming conceptual hurdles and interleaving natural sciences habits of thinking into existing cognitive schema. In practice, I maintain high expectations for students, communicate learning outcomes clearly, offer low-stakes assessments with volumes of personalized feedback and support, and open multiple modes of student-to-teacher communication/listening.”

MaryGrace also credits engagement in discipline-based educational research as a wellspring of inspiration for her teaching practice. “I am first and foremost a scientist — I believe that excellent teaching is evidence-based teaching.” MaryGrace’s research prompted numerous developments in her own teaching practice, specifically integrating activities with hands-on and tactile elements, revising course materials to ultimately expand students’ consciousness of the natural world, inviting students to reflect on the practical and personal meanings of scientific topics, and encouraging learners to take on the identity of scientist.

Ben Iuliano

Ben IulianoBen is a PhD student in the Department of Integrative Biology at UW. He studies the ecological and social dimensions of beneficial insect conservation in agricultural landscapes, and is currently focusing on lady beetles and other predatory insects that provide natural pest control services. Ben takes a landscape approach to understanding how patterns of land use affect the temporal dynamics of insect predators and their prey, as well as how growers value and manage these insects on their farms.

Ben’s teaching philosophy formed through a combination of formal training from the university, feedback from student evaluation surveys over four semesters teaching Biology 152 and Agroecology 103, and reflecting on his experiences as a student.

“My task as teacher is not only facilitating students’ learning, but hopefully leaving them with a greater appreciation for the course topic than they had before entering the classroom,” said Ben. “To this end, my approach has involved transformation of course structure, content, and specific assignments to make biology interesting and relevant while engendering transferable skills for students regardless of their major. This has involved creating a diverse array of activities including case study analysis, podcast listening and reflection, structured debates, review polls, and more to teach new material and apply old material in new contexts. I also rigorously take student feedback into account through surveys and informal check-ins.”

Evan Eifler

Evan EiflerEvan is a PhD candidate in the Botany Department where he studies the diversification of plants. Through his dissertation, Evan seeks to better understand the Cape Floristic Region biodiversity hotspot in South Africa, the most plant biodiverse temperate region on earth. Evan is building the first molecular phylogeny (family tree) for the genus Geissorhiza in the Iris family, which is more diverse in South Africa than anywhere else in the world. The phylogeny not only reveals how all of the species of Geissorhiza are related, but allows Evan to look at patterns within this radiation as they relate to colonization of new habitats and coopting of new pollinators through evolutionary time.

During his time at UW, Evan has taught several introductory biology courses, including Intro to Horticulture and Evolutionary Biology. Evan brings his passion for the outdoors into his classroom — both literally and figuratively.

“I grew up hunting, hiking, and camping with my family, and later working for the Nature Conservancy and volunteering for organizations like the Prairie Enthusiasts and the DNR, so my upbringing was very hands on,” said Evan. “Today, my area of Botany can be a very tangible one so if I can’t take my students outside or to the greenhouse to touch, see, and smell what we’re studying, I bring the plants to them either from the Botany Greenhouses or from my own personal collection. I think these sensory experiences help students retain knowledge and inspires them to appreciate the natural world.”

Jorge Antonio De Los Santos Funes

Jorge De Los Santos FunesJorge is a PhD student in the Department of Animal & Dairy Sciences. He studies the biology of reproductive physiology, particularly how early stage maternal–fetal communication occurs on a molecular level.

During his career at UW, Jorge has taught for classes such as Equine Reproductive Management, Neurobiology, and WISCIENCE Summer First Experience. Jorge especially enjoys inspiring first-generation students and helping people develop critical thinking skills while introducing them to introductory biology concepts. For these reasons, he loves being an instructor in biology labs, where he can “teach by doing.” In this hands-on environment, Jorge encourages students to feel free to ask questions and make mistakes.

“We learn from mistakes and other classmates’ ideas,” said Jorge. “I believe science is a team effort and I like to celebrate this.”

To establish this team mentality, Jorge said his teaching philosophy is simple. “I encourage students in three aspects: one, establish a welcoming and open learning environment; two, apply pre-existing knowledge, to resolve problems independently; and three, ask for help or share what they have learned. We revise this process multiple times in the lab in order to develop critical thinking. I also give students freedom and responsibility at the same time so they can bring their own ideas, set up their own experiments, obtain the data, and draw conclusions.”

Jorge developed this teaching philosophy through his teaching experiences and by taking classes in the Delta Program in the Graduate School. Additionally, he reaches out to colleagues and his academic advisor to exchange ideas related to teaching concerns. He appreciates this mentorship and hopes to pay it forward. “I have been teaching for many years, and I always find it rewarding when former students ask for a reference letter,” he said.

Jacob Kraus

Jacob KrausJacob Kraus is a PhD candidate in the Department of Integrative Biology. His current research focuses on how population increases affect the behavioral responses of black-and-white snub-nosed monkeys in a high-altitude habitat fragment. As a teaching assistant, he has taught courses on Animal Biology.

“My teaching philosophy centers around fostering an environment that encourages students to make connections between what they learn in the classroom with the world around them,” he said. “My goal is to show all students taking my classes, especially those not interested in science, that understanding biology has relevance to their everyday lives. I strive to build a classroom where students from differing backgrounds feel comfortable sharing their personal experiences as they relate to the subject matter. I also believe in the importance of using student comments and feedback to shape my teaching tactics throughout the semester.”

Excellence in Community-based Learning Teaching Award Winner

Chase Ochrach

Chase OchrachChase is a PhD candidate in Counseling Psychology studying predictors and outcomes of justice system-involvement as well as the impacts of incarceration on mental health. She is specifically interested in the recovery among formerly incarcerated youth, meaning making, and existential considerations in justice-involved populations.

Chase has taught in numerous Counseling Psychology courses, including the UW BASES Program, a project working to build the capacity of schools, teachers, and families to better meet the needs of young children experiencing homelessness in Madison.

“As a psychologist-in-training, I believe the most powerful avenue for learning about issues of social justice, oppression, invalidation, and systemic marginalization is through connecting with the community and the real individuals implicated in these intersecting systems,” said Chase. “I see community-based learning as essential to developing an awareness of oneself, one’s culture, and one’s biases. I believe that students need to feel safe to be able to learn, and this applies to both our undergraduate student mentors in the UW BASES program and the elementary school student mentees with whom they work. I value a community-based learning approach because I have seen how this program has reciprocally influenced both mentors and mentees in our program. I make an effort to demonstrate empathy, genuineness, and unconditional positive regard for my students in the hopes that, through this modeling, they will carry those qualities into their interactions with their mentees.”

Chase formed this teaching philosophy through experiences as a mental health clinician and by witnessing growth and change occur in her clients within the context of a genuine, validating relationship. “I believe a validating pedagogical relationship is necessary for students to feel free to ask questions and make themselves vulnerable as they learn to support young children and learn to challenge their own biases and assumptions about homelessness and society more generally,” she said.