Six faculty members awarded Yale College teaching prizes

Joanne Freeman, Andrew Ehrgood, Timothy Newhouse, Harrison Huibin Zhou, Rosie Bsheer, and Kurt Zilm
Pictured with Yale College Dean Marvin Chun (center) are the winners of the 2018 Yale College teaching prizes (from left): Timothy Newhouse, Kurt Zilm, Rosie Bsheer, Joanne Freeman, Andrew Ehrgood, and Harrison Huibin Zhou. (Photo by Jim Anderson)

Generous,” “innovative,” “engaging,” “refreshing,” “dedicated”: These are just some of the words students used to describe this year’s winners of Yale College teaching prizes.

The six winners of the university’s top prizes recognizing undergraduate teaching excellence were honored in a ceremony on May 7 in Sterling Memorial Library attended by many of the students who nominated the faculty members, along with some of their colleagues. This year’s winners are Joanne Freeman, Andrew Ehrgood, Timothy Newhouse, Harrison Huibin Zhou, Rosie Bsheer, and Kurt Zilm.

Yale College Dean Marvin Chun presented the annual awards. Calling Yale “the research institution most dedicated to teaching and learning,” he explained that what makes this university special is that its faculty members are both distinguished scholars in their fields and highly dedicated teachers who make classroom learning a top priority.

Chun noted that the teachers were chosen for the awards based on the recommendations of students, who applauded and cheered as their teachers were presented the awards by Chun. The following are the awards and citations for each faculty member.

Joanne Freeman — The Sidonie Miskimin Clauss ’75 Prize for Teaching Excellence in the Humanities

Joanne Freeman, professor of history and of American studies, your students have praised you over the years for bringing “the past to life,” and for your dedication to teaching, both in and out of the classroom.

They say again and again how generous you are with your time and advice, and in particular how their writing has improved under your guidance. Your students love your stories as much as they love your teaching style.

One of them appreciates how you teach that “what is often most interesting about history is that which initially goes unnoticed or unappreciated.” Another says, “I am so thankful that I have been able to start and finish my time here at Yale with a professor who is exactly the kind of person I always envisioned Yale’s professors to be: an expert in her field, with a clear passion for it, who is able to inspire that passion in others.”

For your enthusiasm and devotion to teaching, Yale College proudly awards the Sidonie Miskimin Clauss ’75 Prize for Teaching Excellence in the Humanities to you, Joanne Freeman.

Andrew Ehrgood — The Richard H. Brodhead ’68 Prize for Teaching Excellence

(This prize is awarded to non-ladder faculty.)

Andrew Ehrgood, lecturer in English, your students praise your “infectious love of the material,” the time and guidance you generously give them, and your unique presence and sense of humor in the classroom.

Your students describe your devotion to their learning outside of the classroom, and how you give an “unusually generous amount of time meeting with each student individually and initiating personal teacher-student interactions that are crucial to a student’s development, especially in the writing process.”

One student says of you, “He gives more to his students than any teacher I’ve ever met, and he doesn’t do it because he has boundless free time, or has no other interests besides teaching. He does it because he believes that a teacher’s duty is to give everything he or she has to his or her students.”

For your gifts as a teacher and for sharing them with your students, Yale College is thus honored to award the Richard H. Brodhead ’68 Prize for Teaching Excellence to you, Andrew Ehrgood.

Timothy Newhouse  — The Dylan Hixon ’88 Prize for Teaching Excellence in the Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Timothy Newhouse, assistant professor of chemistry, your students praise your “innovative” teaching and your “dedication” and “commitment” to their learning.

Your efforts both in and out of the classroom have helped students solve problems, work as a team, and understand difficult concepts in organic chemistry.

Flipping” a classroom as you do presents challenges, but your students find yours “refreshing” and “engaging.” One student said that your classroom “works well for everyone,” another said, “we’re not afraid to make mistakes,” and still another says that it “changed the way I think and feel about my coursework, made me excited to wake up and go to class, and altered my academic trajectory.”

For challenging your students as you welcome and engage them, both inside and outside the classroom, Yale College is delighted to bestow the Dylan Hixon ’88 Prize for Teaching Excellence in the Natural Sciences and Mathematics on you, Timothy Newhouse.

Harrison Huibin Zhou — The Lex Hixon ’63 Prize for Teaching Excellence in the Social Sciences

Harrison Huibin Zhou, professor and department chair of statistics & data science, your students praise your energy and enthusiasm in the classroom and your approachability and kindness outside of it. 

Your students say how much they appreciate your clarity, organization, and sense of humor. One of them says of you: “With the problem perfectly specified at the beginning, the results he shows us follow naturally from an elegant chain of logic.” Another says, “His lectures are sprinkled with his amazing sense of humor and great side stories about academia, and the history of statistics, giving students a sense of the field and not just the material.” Finally, your students wholeheartedly appreciate your willingness to help them outside of the classroom during your ever-extending office hours, which even include meetings over lunch to discuss concepts.

For giving so generously of your talents in the classroom, Yale College is proud to award the Lex Hixon ’63 Prize for Teaching Excellence in the Social Sciences to you, Harrison Zhou.”

Kurt Zilm — The Harwood F. Byrnes/Richard B. Sewall Teaching Prize

(This prize is awarded to any faculty member who over a long period of service has inspired a great number of students and consistently fostered the learning process both inside and outside the classroom.)

Kurt Zilm, professor of chemistry, since joining Yale’s faculty in 1983, you have taught generations of students who are thankful for your enthusiasm, sincerity, and approachability. Year after year, they praise your gift for engaging them at all levels of chemistry, for the organization of your lectures, and for your “open-door” policy, which one student describes by saying, “He was always willing to set aside what he was doing and help students.”

Your students appreciate your ability to engage them at the beginning of their day. One of them says, “He has shown me how passion and enthusiasm from one individual can transform a class at 8:20 a.m., for which I have to wake up and hike all the way up Science Hill while half asleep, into the highlight of my day, for which I excitedly jump out of bed and cheerfully stroll towards class.”

Whether you are teaching your students about thermite-producing molten lava, “re-enacting the Hindenburg explosion,” or “igniting (methane) bubbles,” your students remember learning in a classroom that is fun and exciting about chemistry and value the ability to visualize and apply it.

For your dedication to your students throughout your many years in the chemistry department, Yale College is proud to award the 2018 Harwood F. Byrnes / Richard B. Sewall Teaching Prize to you, Kurt Zilm.

Rosie Bsheer — The Sarai Ribicoff ’79 Prize

(This prize is award to a non-tenured member of the Yale College faculty in the humanities division whose “instruction and character reflect the qualities of independence, innovation, and originality” that were exemplified by the life and thought of the distinguished alumna for whom it is named.)

Rosie Bsheer, assistant professor of history, your students praise your “ferociously extensive knowledge” and are grateful for the “desire for knowledge” that they have after taking your courses.

From your teaching in an “exceedingly popular and coveted” first-year seminar, “Oil and Empire,” to your advanced courses on Middle East History, you have a “reputation for encouraging students to strive for rigorous and careful thought.” Students who have taken your first-year seminar feel as though you’re giving them a foundation for their future terms at Yale with your expectations and assignments.

Your students note your ability to change the way they “perceive the world.”  They appreciate how you challenge them, one of them noting that your courses are “popular not for their ease but rather for their difficulty” and that a teaching prize should go to someone who is “inspiring students to seek out new challenges, to question popular assumptions, and to stretch the limits of their understanding.”

For these reasons, Yale College proudly bestows the Sarai Ribicoff ‘75 Award for the Encouragement of Teaching to you, Rosie Bsheer.

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