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Past Recipients

2020 Alumnae Curriculum Award Winners

Jennifer Lackey

Jennifer Lackey

Professor of Philosophy, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

“Inspiring students to examine the crisis of mass incarceration in the U.S. through a philosophical lens”
Lackey will design a course that brings together Northwestern undergraduates and incarcerated students enrolled in the Northwestern Prison Education Program (NPEP) to study the philosophy of punishment and incarceration.

The course will enable students to examine, through a philosophical lens, the causes and consequences of the incarceration crisis in the United States, which is home to 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of its prisoners. Students will investigate the racial and socioeconomic roots of the punitive approach the U.S. has taken to criminal justice, imposing lengthy prison sentences and harsh conditions of confinement, and providing very few educational, vocational or recreational programs. Evanston-based students will travel weekly to Stateville Correctional Center to attend class with NPEP students. Together the students will study and analyze competing theories of punishment, explore connections among incarceration, race, and poverty, and collaborate to develop theoretical and practical approaches to these issues. Because the course will explore issues that NPEP students face every day, they will be able to provide a valuable firsthand perspective and contribute to a meaningful learning experience for their Evanston-based classmates.

Lackey is the founder and director of NPEP, the only degree-granting program in the state to provide a liberal arts curriculum to incarcerated students. NPEP is a collaboration between Northwestern’s School of Professional Studies and Oakton Community College.
Sepehr Vakil

Sepehr Vakil

Assistant Professor, School of Education and Social Policy

“Encouraging students to critically engage with contemporary ethical challenges in computing”
Vakil and Van Wart will develop an ethics course for undergraduate Computer Science majors. This course will provide students with the opportunity to consider the social implications of computing technologies, and the far-reaching, unintended consequences these systems might have.

The goal of this course will be to provoke and inspire students to critically engage with contemporary ethical challenges in computing. Students will analyze case studies of current and enduring socio-technical dilemmas such as bias in algorithms, surveillance technologies, applications of facial recognition technologies, privacy breaches, etc. In addition, students will use real-world datasets to examine various social values within algorithms, computational techniques, and design decisions. Through these experiences, students will learn to recognize the ethics built into the various technologies they use and understand the responsibility of software engineers to act in the interest of all those affected by their products. 

Vakil’s research examines the intersections of learning, identity, race, power, and ethics in secondary and post-secondary engineering and computer science contexts.
 Sarah Van Wart

Sarah Van Wart

Assistant Professor of Computer Science, McCormick School of Engineering

“Encouraging students to critically engage with contemporary ethical challenges in computing”
Vakil and Van Wart will develop an ethics course for undergraduate Computer Science majors. This course will provide students with the opportunity to consider the social implications of computing technologies, and the far-reaching, unintended consequences these systems might have.

The goal of this course will be to provoke and inspire students to critically engage with contemporary ethical challenges in computing. Students will analyze case studies of current and enduring socio-technical dilemmas such as bias in algorithms, surveillance technologies, applications of facial recognition technologies, privacy breaches, etc. In addition, students will use real-world datasets to examine various social values within algorithms, computational techniques, and design decisions. Through these experiences, students will learn to recognize the ethics built into the various technologies they use and understand the responsibility of software engineers to act in the interest of all those affected by their products. 

Van Wart has experience working as a software developer and designer, with a focus on collaborative urban and regional planning systems research. Her research explores approaches to broadening participation in computing that involve creative production and working with real-world data sets.

2019 Alumnae Curriculum Award Winners

Megan Bang

Megan Bang

Professor, Learning Sciences, School of Education and Social Policy

“Hybrid Courses: A New Model for Community-Engaged Undergraduate Courses”

Vossoughi and Bang will develop a model for hybrid courses bringing together Northwestern students with young people and community members outside the university to engage in courses of study together. Their award will fund the development of a pilot course for Northwestern undergraduates and students at Evanston Township High School (ETHS) with a focus on social justice, including an innovative apprenticeship in community-based research. “Students will be supported to examine histories of educational inequity at local, national and global scales as well as various efforts to transform education to serve community agency and self-determination.”   

Core learning objectives include developing young people as critical and global thinkers who will pursue a deep study of social and educational problems of concern with an eye towards meaningfully blending research, theory and social action. The curriculum design will enable students as writers to move beyond summarizing key arguments within course texts, towards engaging in evidence- based analysis and argumentation, and as researchers to think deeply about questions of ethics, positionality, partnership, study design, data collection and analysis. With an emphasis on evidence-based analysis and argumentation, the course will foster the development of students as publicly engaged scholars and writers.
Shirin Vossoughi

Shirin Vossoughi

Assistant Professor, Learning Sciences, School of Education and Social Policy

“Hybrid Courses: A New Model for Community-Engaged Undergraduate Courses”
Vossoughi and Bang will develop a model for hybrid courses bringing together Northwestern students with young people and community members outside the university to engage in courses of study together. Their award will fund the development of a pilot course for Northwestern undergraduates and students at Evanston Township High School (ETHS) with a focus on social justice, including an innovative apprenticeship in community-based research. “Students will be supported to examine histories of educational inequity at local, national and global scales as well as various efforts to transform education to serve community agency and self-determination.”   

Core learning objectives include developing young people as critical and global thinkers who will pursue a deep study of social and educational problems of concern with an eye towards meaningfully blending research, theory and social action. The curriculum design will enable students as writers to move beyond summarizing key arguments within course texts, towards engaging in evidence- based analysis and argumentation, and as researchers to think deeply about questions of ethics, positionality, partnership, study design, data collection and analysis. With an emphasis on evidence-based analysis and argumentation, the course will foster the development of students as publicly engaged scholars and writers.
James Hambleton

James Hambleton

Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, McCormick School of Engineering

“Inspiring First-Year Engineering Students to Enjoy Basic Mechanics”

Hambleton will create a new teaching module that supports and enhances an existing first-year engineering course and will introduce experiential learning activities aimed at improving student engagement and performance. Drawing from his own research on how soils are moved and shaped through interaction with man-made objects, Hambleton will have student teams design and build a “boring machine” which will be tested in the new Soil-Structure and Soil-Machine Interaction Laboratory. In developing their own designs, students “will be encouraged to look at bio-inspired machine designs, examining how worms, insects, clams, and plant roots burrow through soil.”  In a second group activity, students will design, build, and test a 3D-printed truss, making use of 3D printers in on-campus maker spaces.  Both activities will culminate in competitions between the student teams, with prizes awarded to the best-performing models and those employing the most innovative design concepts. 

Hambleton conceived of the course as a way to address the range of prior experience students bring to the course. Studies demonstrate hands-on learning can be instrumental in retaining engineering students, and first-year engineering students who are less prepared in math and physics will be especially targeted for this new course.

2018 Alumnae Curriculum Award Winners

Craig Duff

Craig Duff

Professor of Journalism, Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications

"A 'Medill Method' of Video/Television Reporting and Production" 

Duff's proposal takes the lead role in developing an innovative set of online modules to teach video editing and basic multimedia animation that will be used across multiple Medill courses. Working with top editors at key outlets -- including news channels (like CNN), network bureaus and local stations, digital-native outlets like Vox and AJ+ and post production houses doing work of the highest level - Duff will research the cutting edge industry models to include in the module design.

The modules will establish the "Medill Method" and be integrated in the undergraduate curriculum and their graduate-level equivalents. The project is innovative, Duff notes, in two specific ways: "First, it keeps the curriculum fresh and connected directly to industry (where regular innovations mean the methods of working are constantly changing)... Second, we will create an innovative presentation portal, where students would access the lessons online, and everyone across the school would learn the same way." Duff anticipates the project will also likely lead to more student opportunities in the partner news organizations.

Richard Gaber

Richard Gaber

Professor of Molecular Biosciences, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

"Enhancing Biological Sciences Laboratory Courses using S. commune"

Gaber's proposal involves unique enhancements to Northwestern's foundational laboratory courses in Biological Sciences. He is developing a series of projects using multiple strains of the mushroom-forming fungus Schizophyllum commune, which harbors more genetic diversity than any other organism. Students' laboratory work with S. commune will involve increasingly sophisticated experiments, in which students will perform genetic analysis, purify DNA for the genome to be sequenced (commercially), quantify the degree of genetic diversity, measure and quantify the evolutionary relatedness between geographically diverse populations, and investigate issues related to population genetics and evolution.

"The broad goals" Gaber notes, "are to enhance student learning and improve the laboratory experience." The curriculum has the promise of generating and maintaining high levels of student interest over the three-quarter-long laboratory course series as students will progress from more basic to more sophisticated experiments and analyses, developing an increased sense of "ownership" in their specific strain, and establishing how related their strain is to those of the rest of the class. Gaber adds the project is unique to microbiology curriculum, and "the eukaryotic microorganism/macroorganism nature of the project will distinguish Northwestern's undergraduate laboratory from all others."

2017 Alumnae Curriculum Award Winners

Jeremy Birnholtz

Associate Professor in Communication Studies, School of Communication, and Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, McCormick School of Engineering

"Computing Everywhere: Informally Engaging Non-Technical Students with Computational Thinking"

His proposal is designed to bridge the gap in Communication Studies students’ familiarity with digital technology. By providing learning opportunities through a series of workshops in novel settings, this course will draw on examples from students’ everyday lives to teach them how to critically engage with software, algorithms, engineers, and developers.

“Just as media literacy was essential in the past, computational literacy, or the ability to understand and critically engage with software and programmers/engineers, is an essential skill for all Northwestern undergraduates,” says Birnholtz. He believes the class “will position [students] well for careers in industry user-experience research or product development, graduate programs in information and communication technology, and introductory coursework in computer science.”

Amanda Stathopoulos

Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, McCormick School of Engineering

"Engineering Possibilities: Decision Science in the Age of Smart Technologies"

Her proposal, “Engineering Possibilities: Decision Science in the Age of Smart Technologies” is designed to give students multiple perspectives on global problems, while helping them understand how local conditions contribute to the success or failure of real-life engineering projects.

“There is ample evidence that young engineers are eager for space and tools to reflect on the social impact of their work,” Stathopoulos notes. Through teaching students how to evaluate technological, economic, and policy implementations as well as the benefits, costs, and trade-offs of competing solutions, she hopes this course will provide such opportunities for students in the beginning of their engineering courses, helping to increase critical thinking and engagement throughout their education.

2016 Alumnae Curriculum Award Winners

Ryan Dohoney

Assistant Professor of Musicology, Bienen School of Music

"Experimental Music in Theory and Practice"

His proposal, "Experimental Music in Theory and Practice," will help students to discover U.S. and European experimental traditions in music as both scholars and performers, allowing them to learn from Chicago's contemporary musical community and from archived works in Northwestern's Deering Library.

Dohoney has noticed a shift in the current musical landscape. He hopes that his new course will help build a sustainable curriculum that supports the vision of the Bienen Institute for New Music, in addition to helping build a foundation for students' future musical ventures.

Mary Weismantel

Professor of Anthropology, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

"Art of the Ancient Americas"

Mary's proposal, "Art of the Ancient Americas," will introduce students to the deep cultural heritage of the Americas through their connection to modern art and architecture, in addition to allowing them to connect with an image-based syllabus rather than relying mainly on text.

She is eager to respond to student requests for Native American/indigenous studies courses. She also is hopeful that her class will “validate the cultural heritage of many of our students of color, and [give] students from European, Asian and other backgrounds a basic familiarity with Latino, Latin American and Native American culture and history.”

2015 Alumnae Curriculum Award Winners

Susie Phillips

Associate Professor, English, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

and

Indira Raman

Professor, Neurobiology, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

“Thought Experiments: An Exploration of Knowing Through Neuroscience and the Humanities"

Their proposal, “Thought Experiments: An Exploration of Knowing Through Neuroscience and the Humanities," will seek to understand the human experience by merging neuroscientific, literary and artistic perspectives -- disciplines generally thought to be at opposite ends of the academic spectrum.

In this truly multidisciplinary course, student will read works like Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and William Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury” alongside scientific writing on neurophysiology, neuropyschiatric disorders and animal behavior. Throughout, they will explore different perspectives on what constitutes thought, what free will is and isn’t, and what tools we have for making sense of some of the most fundamental aspects of human experience -- emotions, memory, perception, ethics and knowledge.

Francesca Tataranni

Senior Lecturer, Classics and Director of Latin Instruction, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

"Ancient Rome in Chicago"

Her proposal, "Ancient Rome in Chicago," will focus on the legacy of ancient Rome as reflected in the architecture, art and other forms of cultural production in Chicago.

Students will work on individual projects and present their research in the form of a video essay. Using software designed by Northwestern’s Knight News Innovation Laboratory, the entire class will then work jointly to design a virtual walking tour of all the places in the city where “memories” of ancient Rome appear.

“We see or walk by neoclassical buildings and are exposed to a variety of uses of classical imagery almost every day, which we completely take for granted,” Tataranni said. “Specifically, the focus of the class will be Chicago, the quintessential modern American city, and the way it has used classical antiquity, in particular Roman culture, to assert its own modernity.”

Eric Zaslow

Professor, Mathematics, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

"Quantitative Reasoning"
Zaslow's course proposal, "Quantitative Reasoning," which will be developed as part of the Bridge Program, a residential five-week program that provides intensive instruction in pre-calculus mathematics and chemistry.

Through this course, students will learn to apply quantitative skills to a wide range of topics and problems that will not only help them succeed in future courses at the University but also in everyday, real-world situations. Course topics might cover, for instance, how to compute compound interest, assessing the value of a college degree, estimating the cost/benefit of undocumented workers and deciding whether health insurance is worth the expense.

The course will develop a student's ability to "argue with numbers,” Zaslow said. “They will apply basic mathematical skills in making reasoned, quantitative arguments to address questions from a variety of real-world concerns and a host of academic disciplines.”

2014 Alumnae Curriculum Award Winners

Elizabeth Gerber

Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and the Allen K. and Johnnie Cordell Breed Junior Professor of Design, McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science

“A Crowdsourcing Curriculum to Enhance Entrepreneurship Education”

Gerber's  highly innovative curriculum is designed to teach the next generation of entrepreneurs how to effectively leverage crowdfunding, a relatively new and nontraditional way of obtaining capital.  The process has made it possible for novice entrepreneurs with limited access to traditional financial backing from banks or venture capitalists to launch new ventures on their own.

“The ability to communicate a new service or product in an online pitch video is vital for successful crowdfunding,” Gerber said in her proposal. “Our curriculum will teach the design and production of pitch videos for crowdfunding campaigns by providing seven online mini-lectures and activities.”

Gerber believes that the self-directed curriculum will be extremely useful to engineering and business students who are attracted to entrepreneurship education, but often find taking such classes difficult because of their already intensive core curricula.

Anne Marie Piper

Assistant Professor, Communication Studies, School of Communication

“Assistive Communication Design: Experiential Learning with Local Community Impact”

Piper's project-based and community-focused course will combine experiential learning with local community impact as students learn to develop technologies that will help those with disabilities more fully take advantage of modern communications such as social media and the Internet, important parts of human interaction many of us take for granted.

“The learning experience comes together through a quarter-long communication design project that matches teams of students with local organizations serving people with disabilities,” Piper said. “I envision students working on projects that increase access to online health information, provide remote therapy for people in rural areas or who are unable to leave their homes, and design new games for children with speech or language delays.”

Funds from the award will help Piper bring in leading experts in vision loss, aging and developmental disabilities to work with students and give them feedback on their projects.