Teachers honored for ‘blowing minds,’ ‘infectious joy’ and more
The five faculty members who have been awarded this year’s Yale College Undergraduate Teaching Prizes won’t be celebrated in person, but the high praise their students heaped on them demonstrates the indelible mark they make in the classroom.
The teachers and their prizes are:
- Shelly Kagan, the Clark Professor of Philosophy — the Sidonie Miskimin Clauss Prize for teaching excellence in the humanities;
- Brian Scassellati, the A. Bartlett Giamatti Professor of Computer Science and professor of mechanical engineering and materials science — the Dylan Hixon ’88 Prize for teaching excellence in the natural sciences;
- Claudia Valeggia, professor of anthropology — the Lex Hixon ’63 Prize for teaching excellence in the social sciences;
- Camille Thomasson, lecturer in film and media studies — the Richard H. Brodhead ’68 Prize for teaching excellence by a non-ladder faculty member; and
- Dana Angluin, professor of computer science — the Harwood F. Byrnes/Richard B. Sewall Teaching Prize, given to a faculty member who over a long period of service has inspired a great number of students and consistently fostered learning both inside and outside the classroom.
Yale College Dean Marvin Chun notified the teachers of their awards and shared his citations for each.
The teachers were nominated by their students for the prizes, which are Yale College’s top faculty honors. One student described the “MIND BLOWN moments” that were a weekly occurrence in Angluin’s class, while another student described how Thomasson made comments in class that are “too true, beautiful, and precise not to commit to memory.” Noting the care Kagan takes in providing feedback, one of his students shared how a 2,000-word paper received 2,500 words back in comments from the philosopher. A student in one of Scassellati’s engineering classes said he “epitomizes the 1-on-1 mentoring and student-faculty relationships that make Yale … so incredible.” Valeggia’s students praised her for caring about them both inside and outside the classroom, commending her for being an energetic and influential teacher as well as “a wonderful human being.”
The Richard H. Brodhead ’68 Prize
Camille Thomasson, lecturer in film and media studies, your students repeatedly emphasize your dedication, thoughtfulness, constructive critique and compassion. Your “skill in instruction” and “infectious joy” inspire your students.
One of your students says, “I took notes because Camille just says things sometimes that are too true, beautiful, and precise not to commit to memory.”
Another says, “She plans. Each lesson is impeccably charted out, minute by minute. There’s always enough time to finish all that she’s strived to fit into the course. Nothing is rushed. Hours before class begins, Camille is already in the room, painstakingly arranging seats, tables, and materials to her exact specifications. Nothing is out of place. Her dedication cultivates a sense of respect and admiration in her students that I have never before heard about, let alone seen for myself.”
Your students state clearly that you dedicate many hours to them outside of the classroom, meeting with them one-on-one, discussing their writing, but also getting to know each of them and understanding their passions. One student says, “Camille asked piercing questions about both my screenwriting process and my own visions as a creative writer. She challenged my preconceptions and pushed me to be bold in execution and in style. She encouraged me to follow my own vision. As a student who has taken many writing classes at Yale, I was ecstatic to have an instructor who did not impose her own conceptions of writing “well” onto me. Camille let me possess creative freedom while guiding me throughout the screenwriting process.”
Yale College is thus honored to award the Richard H. Brodhead ‘68 Prize for Teaching Excellence to you, Camille Thomasson.