Yale faculty members honored with Poorvu award for excellence in teaching

Lucas Bender, Candice Paulsen, Thomas Allen Harris, and Lisa Messeri
Lucas Bender, Candice (Candie) Paulsen, Thomas Allen Harris, and Lisa Messeri (Messeri photo by Tram Luong)

Yale College Dean Marvin Chun will host a gathering in the spring of 2022, in person if public health conditions permit, to honor the recipients of this year’s annual Poorvu Family Fund for Academic Innovation award, created to recognize excellence in innovative teaching. This year’s recipients are Yale faculty members Lucas Bender, Thomas Allen Harris, Lisa Messeri, and Candice (Candie) Paulsen.

The award, given to outstanding junior faculty members at Yale who have demonstrated excellence in teaching in undergraduate programs, enables them to dedicate the summer to research essential to their development as scholars and teachers.

Lucas Bender

Bender is an assistant professor of East Asian languages and literatures with a secondary appointment in humanities. He researches China’s medieval period, focusing primarily on the intersection of thought and literature. His first book, on the Tang poet Du Fu (712–770), was published in 2021, and he is currently at work on a new project detailing the process by which the medieval Chinese tolerance for obscurity gave way to a more optimistic account of our capacity for knowledge. He teaches introductory and advanced courses in Chinese literature and philosophy alongside occasional forays into comparative topics.

Thomas Allen Harris

Allen Harris, senior lecturer in African American studies and film and media studies, is an award-winning filmmaker and artist who lectures widely on visual literacy, personal archiving, and media arts, including the use of media as a tool for social change. He is the host and creator of the national PBS television series “Family Pictures USA” and recently launched the Family Pictures Institute for Inclusive Storytelling. His work has received support from the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and many others. At Yale, he teaches the critical studies course “Family Narratives/Cultural Shifts,” and the production course “Archive Aesthetics and Community Storytelling.” 

Lisa Messeri

Messeri, assistant professor of anthropology, researches the practices and imaginaries of contemporary scientists and innovators. Whether they are planetary scientists or tech entrepreneurs, she is interested in how their work influences how we understand what it means to be human and what it means to be in the world. With support from a National Science Foundation Scholars Award, she is currently investigating the re-emerging technology of virtual reality (VR). This project draws on ethnographic fieldwork in Los Angeles, studying how entertainment, academic research, and industry development shape VR and its attending communities. Her undergraduate courses include “Technology and Culture,” “Speculation as Method,” and “The Anthropology of Outer Space.”

Candice (Candie) Paulsen

Paulsen, assistant professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry, researches pain signaling pathways with an eye toward identifying novel avenues for therapeutic intervention beyond opioids. In Yale College, she teaches two of her department's largest courses, “Principles of Biochemistry I” and “Biology, the Word, and Us.” She is known not only for her outstanding teaching but also for the equally outstanding mentoring she provides to her students, taking as much of an interest in their personal development as in their studies. They praise her as a gifted educator who motivates them to learn and inspires them, through personal example, to succeed.

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Media Contact

Bess Connolly : elizabeth.connolly@yale.edu,