Graduate student teachers recognized for excellence with 2023-24 Teaching Assistant Awards

Thirty-one exceptional graduate students have been selected as recipients of the 2023-24 Campus-Wide Teaching Assistant Awards, recognizing their strengths and commitment surrounding the craft of teaching.

UW–Madison employs over 2,300 teaching assistants (TAs) across a wide range of disciplines. Their contributions to the classroom, lab, and field are essential to the university’s educational mission. To recognize the excellence of TAs across campus, the Graduate School, the College of Letters & Science (L&S), and the Morgridge Center sponsor these annual awards.

A panel of judges selected awardees for four categories: early excellence, advanced achievement, capstone teaching, and community-based learning.

The Early Excellence in Teaching Award recognizes TAs with fewer than four semesters of teaching experience at UW–Madison. Awardees:

Early Excellence in Teaching, Dorothy Powelson Award:

The Advanced Achievement in Teaching Award recognizes TAs with four or more semesters of teaching experience at UW–Madison who are not in the final year of a PhD. Awardees:

Advanced Achievement in Teaching, Dorothy Powelson Award:

The Capstone Teaching Award recognizes dissertators at the end of their graduate program with an outstanding teaching record over the course of their UW–Madison tenure. Awardees:

Capstone Dorothy Powelson Teaching Award:

The Excellence in Community-Based Learning Teaching Award recognizes TAs at any stage of their graduate education who demonstrate outstanding instruction using a community-based learning approach. Awardee:

Learn more about each recipient of the 2023-24 TA Awards in the bios below.

Early Excellence in Teaching Award

Kristen Billings

Kristen BillingsCommunity & Environmental Sociology

Kristen Billings is a PhD student in the Department of Community and Environmental Sociology. Her research investigates U.S. climate security discourses and social movements organizing for demilitarization and climate justice.

She has been a TA for Intro to Community and Environmental Sociology; Food, Culture, & Society; and Intro to Race and Ethnicity in the United States.

“Using the classroom to foster collective learning and student empowerment has been central to my pedagogical practice. I strive to cultivate a participatory learning environment that promotes the growth of students across a wide range of social locations, where every student feels their contributions are valuable,” Kristen said.

“Students often express feeling disempowered by the scale and structural nature of the social and environmental problems they learn about in lectures and readings. My goal is to design assignments and activities that encourage students to not only reflect on how course concepts apply to their lives and communities but to think creatively about problem-solving and their roles in realizing change,” she said. “I hope that students leave the classroom seeing themselves as social agents, people shaped by and equally capable of shaping their worlds.”

Wil Dubree

Wil DubreeJournalism & Mass Communication

Wil Dubree is a second-year research master’s student at the UW–Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where he employs state-of-the-art computational methods to study the profound influence of local journalism in maintaining an informed and just society. Embracing the principles of open science, Wil strives to enhance the accessibility and availability of research data, methods, and findings, making knowledge more accessible to all.

Wil assists in teaching courses related to data analysis and visualization for journalism and strategic communication students looking for a data-oriented supplement to their humanities education. By recognizing and addressing the technical challenges faced by a wide variety of humanities-focused students, he strives to enhance their learning experience and foster a more inclusive environment.

Maxwell Greenberg

Maxwell GreenbergHistory and Educational Policy Studies

Maxwell is a joint doctoral student in History and Educational Policy Studies specializing in the history of education. His dissertation will look at the education organization Junior Achievement and how it reflected and refracted the myriad socio-political changes that took place between 1916 and the 1980s in the United States.

At UW–Madison, Maxwell has been a TA for History of Race and Inequality in Urban America, History of American Education, and a writing lab for students in history. He will also be the instructor of record for History of American Education this summer.

“Teaching at UW–Madison has pushed me to further refine my pedagogical approaches and philosophy of teaching,” Maxwell said. “One major change from the high school classroom is that I can be more straightforward with my students about the philosophy underlying my teaching techniques. I try to be as transparent as possible about how I approach crafting rubrics, grading, and deadlines. In the classroom, I try to reinforce the idea that there are no ‘correct’ answers in history, and that all interpretations of a text further our collective understanding.”

“Outside of class, my goal is to provide as much availability and accessibility in order to defray some of the difficulties that history courses might present for non-history majors, which are the majority of my students,” he said. “Ultimately, my hope is that students will draw connections to their own interests and to contemporary issues they care about by engaging with history.”

Haley A. Johnson

Haley JohnsonEnglish

Haley A. Johnson is a PhD student in English with a minor in visual cultures, specializing in social media texts, the COVID-19 pandemic, digital communities, queered connections, and worlding online.

She has taught Women’s Writing, African Feminisms; Topics in Literature and Film, Office Jobs; Truth and Crime, Constellations Course; and Introduction to Comparative Ethnic Studies.

“My favorite part of teaching is the moment when students understand something so well that they feel comfortable with being creative, deciding whether or not they agree with a text, or when students apply a new concept to something relevant or personal to them,” Johnson said.

“My teaching philosophy is definitely centered around connection. Many students’ ideas, papers, or comments in class have stayed with me for years, and I am deeply motivated and committed to developing their curiosity and shaping their academic voice. As an instructor I want to give them the skills they need to express themselves and understand the material thoroughly. It is always meaningful to me when a classroom supports each other, and I hope to model curiosity, rigor, and careful listening for all my students.”

Marsel Khamitov

Marsel KhamitovGerman, Nordic, & Slavic+

Marsel is a PhD candidate in Slavic literature and languages in the Department of German, Nordic, and Slavic+. His research focuses on the late Soviet political imagination and the official and unofficial forms of the Soviet “friendship of peoples” project. He is especially interested in how different ethnic groups of the late Soviet Union imagined the multinational state and how literature and translation mediated those imaginaries.

Marsel has taught Russian language at different levels, from First Semester Russian to Fourth Semester Russian since fall 2022.

“Back in fall 2022, preparing for my first class not as a student but as an instructor, I was extremely nervous—because of the lack of experience, because of my improper English, but first of all because of starting a Russian language course just half a year after my country had invaded Ukraine,” Marsel said. “But already during the first weeks of the semester, I realized that teaching is what can help me to address this crime and this tragedy—through disentangling the Russian language from the Russian state and through building new communities and connections in the time of war and alienation.”

“UW–Madison is a perfect place to start such a project, not only because we have a strong and supportive Russian program, but also because we have amazing students all over the world,” he said. “It is an incredible joy to see the whole globe in miniature in your class: so far I’ve taught Russian to students who have personal ties with Kyrgyzstan, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Poland, China, and many more countries all over the planet. Sharing diverse experiences is the most precious thing that I’ve learned in my teaching. I’m deeply grateful to all my students for turning the teaching process into the most rewarding adventure.”

Kyle Miron

Kyle MironHistory

Kyle Miron is a PhD Student in the U.S. History program. They are interested in histories of medicine, gender, childhood, and the carceral state. Their research examines the medicalization of juvenile delinquency in the late 19th and early 20th century United States.

At UW–Madison, Kyle has taught U.S. History Civil War to the Present and Introduction to the History of Medicine.

“I love helping students get curious about the past. It’s so rewarding to me when students move from seeing history as an accumulation of facts that they have to absorb unquestioningly towards seeing it as a complex web of relationships that they have the right and the skills to analyze,” Kyle said. “I try to make my classroom a space where students build relationships with each other in order to take intellectual risks to speculate on why events in the past unfolded how they did, to interrogate how various groups interacted, and to examine how the past continues to shape institutions and experiences in the present.”

Cindy Perez

Cindy PerezCurriculum & Instruction

Cindy is a master’s student in Curriculum & Instruction whose research interests regard Latinx, bilingual learners in Spanish language and literacy classrooms. Her thesis analyzes students’ experiences and voice in the classroom when the language of instruction is primarily in Spanish.

She has taught the Curriculum & Instruction course Issues in Bilingual Education and the English as a Second Language (ESL) course for UW–Madison students beginning their journey in the pre-professional Elementary Education program in the School of Education.

“As an instructor, teaching future teachers is an immense responsibility that I treated with great care,” Cindy said. “I found that ‘keeping it real’ as an approach was supportive for students’ learning. By ‘keeping it real’, it meant that theory would always be grounded as much as possible to real world applications. Learning theories serve very little if not brought to life.”

“As a practicing teacher, I would always bring in personal anecdotes, common challenges in the profession, and problem scenarios for students to analyze and work through collaboratively,” she said. “It also meant that everyone was encouraged to bring their full selves to the learning, given that effective teaching requires a high level of authenticity and human connection. After one semester together, our classroom community yielded a strong foundation for working with multilingual learners. I have no doubt that these future teachers from UW will go on to be knowledgeable leaders in their school communities.”

A. Brooke Sasia

Brooke SasiaPsychology

Brooke Sasia is a PhD student in Clinical Psychology whose research interests include dimensional models of mental health disorders with a focus on externalizing behaviors. She is also interested in how genetic and environmental factors contribute to the development of externalizing behaviors across the lifespan.

Brooke has enjoyed being a TA for The Criminal Mind: Forensic and Psychobiological Perspectives, Abnormal Psychology, and Critical Issues in Child Psychopathology.

“I value integrating research and clinical practice to make learning engaging for students,” she said. “I believe that evidence-based practices combined with kindness and authenticity are critical components of effective teaching.”

Early Excellence in Teaching, Dorothy Powelson Award

Allison Kneisel

Allison KneiselIntegrative Biology

Allison Kniesel is a second-year PhD student in the Department of Integrative Biology working with Dr. Monica Turner on questions related to abrupt ecological change in lakes and ecosystem services provided by wetlands and ponds.

At UW–Madison, Allison has taught Introductory Biology, which covers evolution and diversity of organisms, plant anatomy and physiology, and ecology. It also provides students an opportunity to do a semester-long research project to hone inquiry and scientific writing skills.

“I enjoy the collaborative nature of being a TA for the Intro Biology classes,” Allison said. “It is easier to feel invested as a teaching assistant when your inputs on class materials are considered. Over the past three semesters I have worked with teaching staff and other TAs to improve my presenting and classroom management skills. I have always felt supported as a TA at UW–Madison, a feeling which I hope is transferred to my students.”

“A major tenet of my teaching philosophy is to give students a fresh start every time they walk into the classroom,” she said. “I want each student to feel like they can participate and succeed today, no matter how they have performed previously.”

Evgeny Mazko

Evgeny MazkoGeoscience

Evgeny is a PhD student in Geoscience specializing in stratigraphy and sedimentary geology. He has taught Sedimentology and Stratigraphy Lab, Introductory Geology: How the Earth Works, and Natural Hazards and Disasters.

“My passion for teaching is deeply rooted in my profound love for geology, driving my desire to share the knowledge I’ve acquired in this field,” Evgeny said. “I believe that education’s essence lies in cultivating a foundational understanding of the world—its intricate processes and the interconnectivity across various scientific branches and subjects.”

“I strongly believe in the importance of expanding one’s educational horizons beyond the constraints of a specific major or program,” he added. “Such diversification, in my view, is absolutely essential for sustained personal and professional growth. Exposure to a wide array of subjects equips students with alternative perspectives, empowering them to confront professional tasks and challenges with a more comprehensive mindset. This transformative mindset crystallized for me during my participation in the NASA DEVELOP program, where I acquired a wealth of methodologies employed in geospatial data science, applicable to my subsequent research in sedimentary geology.”

Evgeny said he advocates for an active, real-world-centered, practical approach to education that demonstrates the practical relevance of academic material.

“In my introductory geology courses, I integrate real-life examples, tailoring problems to resonate with a diverse audience that may come from various scientific backgrounds. Similarly, in advanced sedimentology and stratigraphy lab courses, I not only share my expertise but also incorporate industry-specific examples and approaches garnered from my professional experiences and internships in the oil and gas industry,” he said.

“I firmly believe that this approach not only imparts immediate skills and knowledge but also cultivates an appreciation for the broader applicability of acquired knowledge in future life. By fostering an environment that values curiosity and active engagement, my intention is to instill a lifelong passion for learning and an understanding of the interconnected nature of knowledge,” he said.

Advanced Achievement in Teaching Award

Verenize Arceo

Verenize ArceoHistory

Verenize is a PhD Candidate in the Department of History. She specializes in twentieth-century community formation and place-making in the U.S. West. Her dissertation centers the everyday socio-cultural life and leisure experiences of ethnic Mexican women as critical place-making endeavors that redefined the gateway and agriculture characteristics of California’s San Joaquin Valley from 1965 to 1995.

She has taught History/Asian American Studies 160: Processes of Movement and Dislocation; History/Chican@ and Latin@ Studies 151: The North American West to 1850; History/Chican@ and Latin@ Studies 152: The U.S. West Since 1850; and History 136: Sports, Recreation, and Society.

Verenize’s teaching philosophy is guided by the desire to deconstruct the presumption that only those with bachelor’s degrees and beyond can engage in historical debates.

“From the very first discussion section, I make it clear to my students that everyone in the room can be an expert and lead,” she said. “If students come to class having engaged with the material, there is no reason to feel that you don’t have something to say about concepts like displacement, immigration, or belonging. I am here to learn with and from you.” She aims to root her classrooms in mutual trust: her trust that students are capable of engaging in difficult topics and students’ trust that they can look to themselves for answers.

While teaching at UW–Madison, Verenize has enjoyed watching students build trust in themselves as they gain a deeper understanding of how past meets present. Whether this manifests in the form of students leading class conversations without Verenize’s guidance or questioning how they can make concepts more accessible to those outside their class, students learn to think through—and not just absorb—course content and ideas.

“Each semester, I’ve been lucky to learn with and from UW–Madison students who are willing to push the boundaries on how we make sense of history,” Verenize said. “My hope is that students will continue to take up space in their classrooms—even if it is not a history or ethnic studies course—and trust that they are the ones actually shaping the conversation.”

Gareth Baldrica-Franklin

Gareth Baldrica-FranklinGeography

Gareth is a PhD student in Geography specializing in cartography. He has taught geography courses on Our Digital Globe, Introduction to Cartography, Graphic Design in Cartography, and Interactive Cartography and Geovisualization.

“As a mapmaker, I love collaborating with students one-on-one as they work through creative challenges and find their voice as designers,” Gareth said. “Often, making a map is like a telling a story about a place, and these stories can be both quantitative and qualitative, broad and intensely personal. Because my students come from variety of backgrounds, with different technical skillsets and familiarity with the subject, I tailor my teaching to each student’s strengths—sometimes this means I will provide detailed technical help, other times it means more creative and imaginative brainstorming.”

“Ultimately, I frame myself as a resource, as opposed to an expert, who is simply there to provide support. Sometimes (often), the technical elements of mapmaking are frustrating, and so it’s important to convey that I will try to answer any questions and all, no matter how seemingly simple they might be. And if I don’t know something off-hand, we can work through it together!” he said. “I am also there to ask critical questions about design, and the design process, such as who or what is left out of the map? Where does data come from? How can we make maps more emotional, and grounded in experience? My goal is to both teach the practical elements of design, while also situating the process of design within larger sociotechnical systems, and show that students have the power to affect change.”

Letícia M Guedes Barbosa

Letícia BarbosaSpanish & Portuguese

Letícia is a PhD student in Portuguese culture and literature. She has taught the 101, 201, and 202 courses in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. She has also taught UW–Madison’s Summer Intensive Portuguese Institute and Portuguese 1 for UW–Madison Continuing Studies.

“I enjoy teaching Portuguese at UW–Madison because it gives me the opportunity to share a part of myself, my identity, and my culture with my students,” Letícia said. “During my classes, I am able to teach my mother language and cultural topics that are close to my heart and home. This allows me to connect with my students on a personal level and create an intimate learning environment in which I feel safe because the students are respectful, curious, and genuinely engaged in being citizens of the world.”

Letícia said her core value as a TA has revolved around empowerment through critical pedagogy.

“As an instructor of Portuguese, I have strived to go beyond language and foster social inclusiveness by addressing sociohistorical contexts and demystifying cultural stereotypes,” she said. “To foster social inclusiveness and awareness through critical pedagogy, I’ve adopted an approach that empowers students to understand the interplay between culture, history, and language, particularly in the Brazilian context. This not only makes learning more engaging and enriching but also promotes global awareness and fosters the development of knowledgeable global citizens and leaders.”

Noah Karvelis

Noah KarvelisCurriculum & Instruction

Noah is a graduate student in Curriculum & Instruction focused on curriculum studies. He has taught courses on the Cultural Foundations of Learning and Development and on the Critical Aspects of Teaching, Learning, and Schooling.

Noah said he enjoys the opportunity to work closely with pre-service teachers as they develop their pedagogies and the way they think about education.

“It is incredibly rewarding to work alongside my students, especially as they are just beginning their journey as teachers, as we engage deeply with theories and research surrounding education, then directly translate those ideas into the development of innovative lesson plans, classroom communities, and ways of teaching and learning that my students then go on to bring into the community as elementary school teachers,” Noah said. “I love having the opportunity to think deeply with my students as they push me to think about education in different ways,” including how educators can develop pedagogies that align with their own philosophies as well as the goals of the communities they work with.

As a teacher, Noah seeks to connect theory to practice and mentors students in the process of developing their individual education philosophies along with forms of teaching that align with those philosophies.

“In particular, I focus on helping my students cultivate an ability to think critically about schools and the work of education as they become teachers who understand the important issues and inequities that schools face. Then, we work to develop forms of teaching that respond to these issues, developing responsive practices that are grounded in centering our students and communities,” he said.

Morgan Mayer-Jochimsen

Morgan Mayer-JochimsenEducational Policy Studies

Morgan is a PhD student in the social sciences track of the Educational Policy Studies department where she studies educational equity in relation to race and well-being. Her dissertation research centers young people’s perspectives on student wellness in educational policy and current contexts.

Morgan’s favorite courses to teach in Educational Policy Studies center young people’s agency and the capacity of education to change the world: Youth, Education, and Society and Education for Social Justice.

“It is the greatest honor and joy to facilitate learning communities for UW students. My primary teaching value is to co-create an inclusive and caring classroom community in which we can practice discussion-based learning. I consistently reflect and revise my teaching in support of a classroom in which connection, wholeness, and relationships are central,” Morgan said. “Building community requires caring for students in their wholeness. By this I mean creating a community in which we know each other as containing multitudes, including multiple identities, not only the identity of student.”

Morgan said she loves seeing students make connections in the classroom and deepening their relationships to course material, each other, and their personal educational experiences.

“I conceive of learning as being in new relationship,” she said. “Students may deepen in relationship to themselves, coming home to the wisdom they carry, embodied, at center. In this way, learning can inspire self-belief. In an educational policy studies class, students may make connections among their personal educational experiences, the educational experiences of others (both classmates and the young people featured in course materials), as well as broader social processes and theoretical concepts. Through new connections to self, others, and systems, students develop critical analyses of structures of oppression and can dream of new worlds for themselves and for young people. In this way, learning can inspire action toward transforming the world.”

Alicen Rushevics

Ali RushevicsCommunication Arts

Ali is a PhD candidate in the rhetoric, politics, and culture area of Communication Arts. Her dissertation research is on the rhetoric of U.S. Imperialism in the Pacific. She focuses mainly on reparation and apology legislation.

She has taught numerous courses in Communication Arts, with the 300-level courses being her favorite to teach. She has been a lecturer for Introduction to Public Speaking, Intercultural Communication & Rhetoric, and Gender & Communication. As a TA, she has taught Introduction to Digital Communication, Communication & Human Behavior, Theory & Practice of Argumentation and Debate, Introduction to Rhetoric in Politics & Culture, Great Speakers & Speeches, and Rhetoric of Campaigns & Revolutions.

Ali said the foundation of her pedagogical approach is making meaningful connections – which means creating relationships in the classroom, establishing trust and respect, and engaging fully with the course material.

“I have taught over 500 UW–Madison students in my time here and my proudest moments are when students tell me that my class is where they feel most welcomed, most comfortable, and most likely to speak up and participate,” she said. “One of the biggest challenges to learning is an environment that does not support student agency. So, I approach each class with the philosophy that if everyone knows everyone, students will feel more comfortable to speak up if they have questions, more interested in what we are learning, and more likely to connect with peers. We do a welcome warm-up every day, which consists of students saying their own names and answering a silly question. This brings a lighter mood into the space, allows everyone (including me) to remember their peers’ names (and be able to correctly pronounce them), and gets students talking before we get into class content. I have found that this foundation creates lasting friendships among my students, great trust and respect between me and my students, and a stronger appreciation for our course content. It is essential for my teaching space to feel safe for students. It is where we build community.”

Keli Tucker

Keli TuckerEnglish

Keli is a PhD candidate in composition and rhetoric in the Department of English.

Keli has taught courses for the Department of English including Introduction to College Composition, Intermediate Composition, a 400-level Seminar on Tutoring Writing Across the Curriculum, and Writing Studio.

“I see the opportunity to make a positive and meaningful impact on students through teaching as sitting at the heart of my graduate work at UW–Madison,” Keli said. “I believe my strength as a teacher lies in my ability to foster an environment where all students feel seen, heard, and valued. Through enacting justice-oriented practices, teaching from an ethic of care, and consistently striving to be responsive to student needs, I hope that my teaching will not only empower students as writers and learners in lasting and transformative ways, but also create an equitable educational experience for all students.”

Camille Y. Williams

Camille Y WilliamsCounseling Psychology

Camille is a PhD candidate in Counseling Psychology. Her research focuses on the psychosocial trait of empathy and how we can utilize digital interventions to enhance empathic capacity in adults. She is also a clinician in training, specializing in women’s mental health and the supervision of student therapists.

At UW–Madison, Camille has taught the Counseling Psychology course on Supervised Internship in Counseling, along with courses on Cultural Psychology and the Psychology of Human Emotion: from Biology to Culture.

“What I enjoy most about teaching at UW­–Madison is offering mentorship and warmth to students navigating the challenging period of young adulthood,” Camile said. “I hope to model for students that accomplishing one’s goals in the field of psychology or any profession is a real possibility, and to shed light on concrete steps to make that happen.”

Advanced Achievement in Teaching, Dorothy Powelson Award

Patricia Chan

Patty Chan stands in front of an elaborately decorated chalkboardBotany

Patty is a PhD candidate in the Department of Botany, with a research focus on plant ecology and evolution. Her dissertation investigates a lineage of Australian plants through phylogenomic and pollination ecology lenses to understand what drives plant diversification and species movement across geographic regions over time.

Chan has taught numerous courses including Vascular Flora of Wisconsin, Plant Systematics, and General Ecology, and is developing a summer field course based in northern Wisconsin. In teaching biology courses, Chan seeks to spark interest in our biodiversity and to curate memorable experiences by integrating hands-on approaches and unique visual aids. She’s known for illustrating elaborate chalkboard murals and for her electric enthusiasm in the field.

“My teaching philosophy centers on cultivating an environment that invokes students’ curiosity and fosters connections to their personal passions,” she said. “I try to challenge the class to interpret class material creatively, tying intangible concepts from plant biology into the phenomena we observe in our daily lives.”

Philip Lampkin

Philip LampkinChemistry

Philip is a graduate student in Chemistry whose research focuses on the utilization of helical oligopeptides called “foldamers” to scaffold catalytic chemical transformations.

As Philip explains it: he seeks to understand how control over reaction component spatial orientation and placement drives reactivity. Life’s primary tool for catalyzing reactions is enzymes. Enzymes drive catalysis through the preorganization of reaction components in three-dimensional space. Foldamers mimic the alpha helix secondary structures found in enzymes. Through careful placement of catalytic groups on helical foldamer scaffolds, researchers can mimic the remarkable rate acceleration of enzymes and enhance our understanding of the fundamental structure–activity relationships controlling reactivity in ways not possible with traditional catalysts.

Philip has taught Organic Chemistry classes including Organic Chemistry Lab and Organic Chemistry I and II. His favorite, and the focus of his curriculum development efforts, is teaching Advanced Organic Chemistry Lab.

“It takes a village to develop a curriculum that incorporates cutting edge research, scientific techniques, and chemical education principles. I am fortunate to be a PhD student at UW–Madison where I’m surrounded by dedicated undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and staff who value pushing education forward,” Philip said. “As an educator, I seek to harness the unique skills and passions of my colleagues to transfer the most important research happening right now in chemistry labs all around the world into the teaching lab. This means working with graduate students to identify chemical research amenable to teaching environments, mentoring undergraduates in optimizing and adapting said research and collaborating with staff and faculty to incorporate new curricula into chemistry courses at UW–Madison. In my humble opinion, there’s nowhere better to develop new chemistry curricula than UW–Madison.”

Capstone Teaching Award

Seungmi Laura ChoSeungmi Laura Cho

Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work

Seungmi Laura Cho, MSW, is a doctoral candidate in Social Welfare at the Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work, where she focuses on critical interdisciplinary qualitative inquiry and international and transracial adoption. Seungmi’s critical interdisciplinary research is broadly motivated by Black feminism’s intersectional theorization of reality as structured by race, class, and gender. She investigates, therefore, so-called socioemotional and behavioral problems that are associated with “adoption status” and “racial difference” as problems with the normalization of white supremacy—not merely problems with vulnerable adopted individuals of color.

At UW–Madison, Seungmi has been the instructor for two social work courses, Advanced Macro Practice and Diversity, Oppression, and Social Justice. She has also been a TA for courses on Human Behavior and the Environment; Homelessness: Service-Learning Course; Diversity, Oppression, and Social Justice; and Introduction to the Field of Social Work.

“I love teaching at UW–Madison!” Seungmi said. “I approach teaching as a student-teacher relational process. The student-teacher relationship motivates me as a scholar—I’m eager to respond to student questions, encourage students’ lifelong learning, and cultivate their confidence to apply classroom learning to their daily lives.”

Carlos Dávalos

Carlos DávalosJournalism & Mass Communication

Carlos is a PhD candidate in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication (SJMC). Carlos specializes in comparative media research between different mass media landscapes. He is also interested in understanding how national mass media systems shape, in particular, Mexican local communication ecologies. Finally, a broader, more fundamental objective in Carlos’ research agenda is mass media’s impact on the structural and cultural configuration of Mexican identity. Primary and constant research avenues include popular culture, media history, mass media conglomerates, (national) identity, journalism, and technology. For his dissertation, Carlos is researching how U.S. media corporations influenced the formation of Mexico’s mass media content (particularly FM radio) and corporate mainstream media models during the 1990s. The impact of this influence on the constitution of Mexico City’s identities is a vital objective.

Carlos has taught the central course for newly accepted undergraduates in SJMC on Mass Communication Practices, along with courses on Introduction to Mass Communication, Principles and Practices of Reporting, and Sports Journalism.

“I see teaching as a fundamental social constitution activity,” Carlos said. “The horizontal safe spaces that students and I have been able to build represent an authentic vehicle for knowledge and community sharing while polishing crucial learning and working skills. I admire and share students’ passion for social justice, cultural appetite, and empathy. I have also learned at UW–Madison that education can trigger proactive mobilization in students, with the constant and real desire for a more just social future. Always proud and grateful for my community at UW–Madison’s SJMC.”

Sarah Olson

Sarah OlsonEnglish

Sarah is a PhD candidate in English literary studies, researching Renaissance revenge tragedy through the lenses of disability studies and media theory. Her dissertation considers how revengers in these plays experience intertwined sensations of bodily closeness (sensory overload and obsession) and bodily distance (dissociation and apathy), and what those sensations can tell us about the culture of extremes in the early modern era.

Sarah has taught English 100, introducing first-year undergrads to college composition, and has taught English 162: Why Shakespeare? and English 241: Literature and Culture to the 18th Century, three times each. She added that she has also had a fantastic six years teaching at the Writing Center.

“I’ve loved the wide range of teaching experiences I’ve gotten to have with the UW–Madison English Department. Not only have I had the chance to teach as instructor of record for English 100, but I’ve also gotten to explore my area of expertise – Renaissance literature – with majors and non-majors alike,” Sarah said. “My teaching with the Writing Center has afforded me an array of instructor and leadership roles, too: from outreaches across campus and one-on-one work with writers, to mentoring fellow TA instructors first as Online Writing Center Coordinator and then as Assistant Director of the Writing Center.”

“My central goal when teaching is to help students understand and pursue their investment in their own ideas,” she said. “That’s what made me fall in love with English as a subject, in the first place; my experiences gaining my degrees taught me that classroom discussions and academic support centers, alike, can form communities of people excited to hear your perspective and help you strengthen that perspective into an argument. Throughout my time teaching at UW–Madison, I’ve wanted to offer that same collaborative environment to my students, so they can learn to trust themselves as thinkers and communicate with confidence.”

Bonyan Qudah

Bonyan QudahSocial and Administrative Science, School of Pharmacy

Bonyan is a PhD student in Health Services Research in Pharmacy with a minor in Mass Communication. She has taught courses on Pharmacy in the Health Care System, Safety and Quality in the Medication Use System, and Pharmacist Communication: Educational and Behavioral Interventions.

“I consider myself lucky since I had the opportunity to be a Teaching Assistant in a communication course for PharmD students which aligns perfectly with my research interests in health communication,” Bonyan said. “Witnessing students evolving into more empathic and proficient communicators by the end of the semester has always been a source of joy and pride for me. As an educator, this experience reinforces my commitment to creating a positive and nurturing learning environment and empowering students to realize their full potential.”

“My teaching philosophy is guided by Bandura’s saying, ‘If self-efficacy is lacking, people tend to behave ineffectually, even though they know what to do.’ One of my biggest goals in teaching is to build students’ confidence in learning new skills and concepts and foster a profound belief in their ability to make a meaningful impact in their future practices,” she said. “To achieve that, I always acknowledge and celebrate my students’ accomplishments no matter how small they are. I also encourage students to be patient with themselves and adopt a growth mindset as they navigate challenges in their learning journey.”

Melissa Schoenlein

Melissa SchoenleinPsychology

Melissa is a PhD candidate in Psychology specializing in cognitive psychology. Her dissertation examines how people form color-concept associations from their experiences in the world, and how the structure of color categories (such as category typicality and category boundaries) contributes to this process.

Melissa has served as a TA for the three psychology foundations courses, including Introduction to Psychology, Basic Statistics, and Research Methods in Psychology. She also served as Instructor of Record for Information Visualization, a senior psychology capstone course.

“Through my experiences at UW–Madison as teaching assistant, research mentor, trained facilitator, participant in the Delta Program, and course instructor, I have learned that there are three primary approaches that drive my teaching practice: (1) promote a community of learners who celebrate feedback, (2) encourage students’ autonomy in their learning, and (3) be transparent,” Melissa said. “These approaches contribute toward a broader theme of, ‘tell me more.’ From reflecting on my teaching and mentorship experiences, students are more likely to ask their peers to tell them more when they feel they belong to a community with shared interests and mutual respect. Students are more likely to ask me to tell them more when they become autonomous in their learning and are generating their own questions and ideas. And students are more likely to tell me and their peers more when we have established a norm of transparency around the activities, language, and actions in our shared spaces.”

“My time in the classroom is further rooted on the belief that teaching can be a research endeavor, which offers opportunities for me to continually modify my teaching based on reflections and evidence-based practices, which I learned while completing my Delta Certificate,” she said.

Lucas Wiscons

Lucas WisconsSociology

Lucas is a PhD candidate in Sociology focused on ethnomethodology, conversation analysis, criminal justice, social psychology, medical sociology, and qualitative methods.

He has been the instructor of record for courses on Social Psychology, Talk and Social Interaction, and Criminal Legal Interaction. In addition, he has been a teaching assistant for courses on the Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, Introduction to Criminal Justice, and Statistics for Sociologists. Lucas is also the Department of Sociology’s Instructional Peer Mentor, providing one-on-one consultation and mentorship to teaching assistants within the department.

Lucas said he enjoys making connections with students during what is a time of immense intellectual and emotional growth. He has found that students influence him as much as he does them.

“I’ve strengthened my intellectual curiosity and developed my capacities for patience and compassion through my work with students,” Lucas said. “I find the relational work that, I believe, is integral to exceptional teaching enormously gratifying. I am lucky to have found a way to make it my career.”

This fall, Lucas will begin a tenure track faculty position in the History and Social Science department at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota. He added that his extensive teaching experience at UW–Madison was central to his strong application for the position.

Thomas Worth

Thomas WorthPolitical Science

Thomas is a PhD candidate in Political Science specializing in international relations and gender and politics. His dissertation focuses on the relationship between gender identity and public support for war in the United States.

Thomas has taught many classes, with two of his favorites as a TA being Comparative Foreign Policy and teaching Conflict Resolution twice. Thomas said he taught those classes with supportive faculty members who allowed him to develop as a teacher by encouraging him to test different teaching styles and classroom activities.

“One thing that I appreciate about UW–Madison students is their interest in interacting with faculty. I appreciate getting the opportunity to make a personal connection with students, which makes teaching easier, first of all, but also makes teaching way more fun,” he said. “I’m currently teaching Political Science 170: Research Methods in Political Science, a particularly dense class that is required for all political science majors. I tend to show up about 10-12 minutes early just so that I can chat with some of the students and get to know them better. I feel like when I can build a connection with students that they become both more likely to stay engaged during my lectures, and more likely to come to my office hours to discuss the course or some aspect of their future plans.”

Meiliu Wu

Meiliu WuGeography

Meiliu is a PhD candidate in Geography specializing in Geographic Information Sciences (GIS). She has taught courses on Introduction to GIScience, Introduction to Cartography, Geospatial Database Design and Development, Interactive Cartography & Geovisualization, and GIS Applications.

“I believe that education should focus on student-centered learning,” Meiliu said. “As a passionate educator, I am committed to guiding students on a path of discovery, innovation, and empowerment. I am devoted to inspiring the next generation of geospatial data science professionals to engage with various geospatial applications.”

She added that her teaching philosophy is rooted in five core principles for student-centered learning: fostering curiosity, empathy, and social responsibility; empowering through knowledge and practice; promoting inclusive, flexible, and responsive learning; cultivating critical thinking, self-learning, and problem-solving skills; and encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration.

Yuxiang Zhu

Yuxiang ZhuCurriculum & Instruction

Yuxiang is a PhD candidate in Curriculum & Instruction whose area of interest concerns teacher education in the era of globalization. More specifically, his research involves exploring ways to foster critical cosmopolitanism for language teachers around the world.

“By connecting teachers from different nations and cultural/linguistic backgrounds through digitally mediated communication platforms, I work with teachers around the world to engage in critical conversations, reflect on their own teaching philosophies, and forge equitable relationships across physical and ideological borders,” Yuxiang said.

At UW–Madison, Yuxiang has taught courses on second language acquisition, sociocultural theories, functional language analysis, and English as a second language (ESL) method. He has also had the privilege of leading pre-service teacher cohorts every year since he entered the program: facilitating seminars, managing student placements, conducting observations, and reflecting with pre-service teachers post-lesson.

“I enjoyed teaching and supervising across all the course levels, but my personal favorite has to be Curriculum & Instruction 311: Language Acquisition and Use In and Out of Schools. It is an introductory course to language acquisition theories and the sociocultural understanding of learning. I have taught this course multiple times and adored it because it ignited many teacher candidates’ realization that learning is culturally and locally situated rather than intellect-based. Seeing my students’ ‘Ah, that explains it’ faces after our discussions is the best feeling for which I could ask as their teacher,” Yuxiang said.

“Through my years of teaching and learning, I profoundly believe that a teacher education program for equity and justice starts with building a trusting community that fosters and promotes critical conversations, reflections, and actions that can lead to individual transformation as well as societal transformation,” he added. “The only way for our teaching candidates to believe in social justice and teach critically, in my opinion, is when their instructors can let them experience what equity and justice feel like: to feel acknowledged, respected, and loved. The same way we want their future students to feel when they become teachers.”

Capstone Dorothy Powelson Teaching Award

Brandon Corder

Brandon CorderBotany

Brandon is a PhD candidate in Botany. His research focuses on the evolution and ecology of parasitism in orchids (more specifically, mycoheterotrophy, or parasitism on fungi). Brandon works on the ~50 species of native orchids in the Great Lakes as well as Vanilla relatives worldwide to understand the genomic signatures of the evolution of parasitism on fungi in the orchid family and the ecological contexts where parasitism or partial parasitism is beneficial. He uses tools such as fungal microbiome sequencing, genome sequencing, and stable isotope analysis to understand the kinds of fungi targeted and the relative amount of resources orchids receive from them.

A few of Brandon’s favorite courses he has taught are General Botany, an introductory botany course he’s taught six times; Dendrology, a field-heavy course where students learn over 100 woody plants of Wisconsin; Plant Morphology & Evolution, where students learn the entire history of plant evolution; and Vascular Flora of Wisconsin, which he re-designed as a primary instructor last summer and led a week-long field trip to Northern Wisconsin to learn to identify plants in our state.

“One thing that I love about teaching at UW–Madison is the commitment the university has to engaging and authentic field and laboratory courses,” Brandon said. “We have a tradition of excellence in the ecological and biological sciences going back well over a century with a legacy of engaging and forward-thinking teachers. In Botany, field and lab courses are indispensable as they give students hands-on experience with plants at all levels from cell to ecosystem, and importantly allow students to experience the unique flora of Wisconsin in its natural context. Nearly every course in the Botany Department has a thoughtfully developed hands-on component like this. One of the greatest joys I’ve had in teaching has been watching students begin to recognize the plants around them, then begin to connect our lessons to the relationships of plants to one another and in the entire community. When I see them take that knowledge and incorporate it into their own conservation ethic or into daily conversations with their friends and family, I know we have succeeded in our biggest goal as teachers: to inspire an appreciation for the natural world.”

Excellence in Community Based Learning Teaching Award

Bri Buhr

Brianna BuhrCounseling Psychology

Bri is a graduate student in the final semester of the Counseling Psychology master’s program and is completing their internship at University Health Services’ Mental Health Services. They have taught the Counseling Psychology course on Mental Health, Self-Awareness, and Social Justice: Working with Diverse Communities during each semester in the program.

“I enjoy facilitating an environment where students can explore relationships with themselves and each other, particularly related to how they navigate identity and power,” Bri said. “I also enjoy using creativity and the arts to create opportunities for students to practice thinking and interacting differently.”