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2019 Recipients

Kevin Boyle

Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence 

Kevin Boyle writes that beyond providing students with historical information, “I also need them to know that history is an analytical discipline centered not on the facts themselves… but on their interpretation” and that an “interpretation’s strength rests on both the rigor of its argument and the precision of its prose.” Writes his chair, “Kevin has a way of making students see history anew” by creating “meticulously constructed historical accounts, based on deep learning and conscious interpretative choices.”  Boyle highlights the importance of modeling this analytic work for students. He explains, “I link the lectures together in as tight a narrative as I can manage, with connections running backward and forward, so the entire course has a story-telling feel.” A student writes, “His teaching style is unique in that he emphasizes the stories of individual actors in history to show how broader historical forces affected the lived experiences of real people.”

Boyle emphasizes the analytic nature of the field by engaging students in the work of historians. As one student notes, Boyle “put the students in charge of the material…He compiled hundreds of documents from local newspapers for us to pour through. . . (and) introduced me to the idea that historians are not just archivists of the past, but active shapers of narrative.” Similarly, another writes, “Having students discuss and argue amongst one another as to how to interpret given historical sources, he did more than ensure they would actively learn how to analyze sources or write properly; he also, through the very structure of the course, taught them that history consists less of the bald recitation of facts than it does the crafting of plausible narratives.”

Teaching, for Boyle, continues outside the classroom. His chair notes that students are often lined up outside his office door. Writes a student who met Boyle through approaching him with a question, later took a class with him, and then became his thesis advisee, “I am a better history student and thinker because of Professor Boyle.”

Boyle is the William Smith Mason Professor of American History in the Department of History. He received his Ph.D. in History from the University of Michigan.

Mesmin Destin

Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence 

Three priorities characterize Mesmin Destin’s teaching approach: equip students to use social psychological methods and perspectives to investigate social issues; guide students to critically evaluate and utilize multiple social scientific theories and approaches; and expose students from diverse backgrounds to available opportunities and support them in fulfilling their own intellectual pursuits and career goals. The Dean of SESP writes of Destin’s course on Identity and Motivation, “Destin empowers students to explore their own identities and use that as powerful motivation for making change in the world. He has designed the course to encourage the sharing of interdisciplinary ideas as well as diverse personal perspectives. As part of their final…students create a program, intervention, or policy to address a real-world issue of their own choosing.” This course was judged so successful that it is now a requirement in SESP, and psychology students have noted its life-changing impact. Writes one, “Out of this class came the research project that got me a Summer URG, admission to the Psychology Honors Program, an Academic Year URG, and a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.” Another writes, “Professor Destin has shown me how [research] can make a difference in others’ lives…He truly gives me a sense of purpose and the confidence to do so much more than I thought I ever could.”

Destin’s contributions to undergraduate education extend well beyond his courses. As a Searle Center Fellow, he developed a workshop called Considering Student Diversity in STEM and co-developed and co-directs the SESP Leadership Institute (SLI) a pre-orientation program for students from low-income and first-generation college backgrounds. Writes his dean, “students in the SLI program have come away with their own critical perspective with which to identify and explain social, structural, and cultural forces that impede students from low income and first- generation identities; participants are empowered with the resources, support, and leadership skills to make systems, policies, and practices that work for everyone.”

Destin is an Associate Professor appointed jointly in the School of Education and Social Policy and the Department of Psychology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. He earned his Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of Michigan, and is a Northwestern undergraduate alum.

Mitra J. Hartmann

Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence 

Mitra Hartmann’s chair writes that she is “continuously innovating in an effort to enhance student learning.”  Hartmann has received several internal awards to develop curriculum for her undergraduate Fluid Mechanics class, including problem sets and take-home laboratories to help students work through the challenging engineering material.  Writes one student, “Dr. Hartmann…(is)probably one of the most dedicated professors I've had here, answering questions at all hours on our online forum [and] staying as late as we need.” Another writes, “She encouraged students to solve problems on their own, on the board, or in small groups and always offered help in the process.”

Hartmann explains her intent is to provide the foundations that allow students to “develop a passion for dispassionate scientific research.”  Her lectures include both historical perspectives as well as examples of cutting-edge research on topics from astrophysics to biomedical devices; her chair notes that this combination helps students “situate the knowledge they are gaining in a societal context.” Hartmann’s laboratory assignments link classroom-based concepts directly to students’ engagement in experiments, and she designed a course in which undergraduates use high-speed videography to study animal behavior.

Hartmann is also committed to an inclusive learning environment. Her chair writes that she “is a gifted educator and mentor who is dedicated to bringing out the best in her students... She sets high standards and maintains them by tailoring her instruction to individual needs.” Hartmann regularly requests an additional advising load notes her chair, because “she knows she can make a difference in the experience that students have at Northwestern.” One advisee writes, “I feel comfortable expressing all concerns in any aspect of life to her. … She encourages the advancement in any career choice I choose and sees a great potential in me that professors and other faculty might have trouble seeing. . . . . I would recommend her to anyone and everyone for her ability to empathize and her genuine concern for her advisee's well-being.”

Hartmann is a Professor with a 50/50 joint appointment in Biomedical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. She received her B.S. in Applied and Engineering Physics from Cornell University and her Ph.D. in Integrative Neuroscience from the California Institute of Technology.

Danny M. Cohen

Charles Deering McCormick Distinguished Professor of Instruction 

Danny M. Cohen’s courses are both intellectually and personally challenging. In his course, Designing for Social Change, students study social injustices and human rights and design possible interventions while, writes the Dean, “navigating the subjectivity, complexity, and challenges of social programming.” In his two advanced Holocaust studies seminars, he “innovates through creating a trusting space where students feel supported by the instructor and their peers to engage with and start to build their own understanding of the horrific events of the Holocaust and its implications for present day genocide.”

Cohen writes, “I want to engage all students at every level. My syllabi draw on different media, including empirical research, documentary films, comedy writing, popular music, fiction, feature films, serious games, and atrocity survivor testimonies.” Cohen designs class sessions to engage students actively, such as simulating the process of memorial design where they “present their ideas for commemorating historical and contemporary atrocities grounded in theories of collective memory and intergenerational trauma.” Student comments echo his emphasis on engagement. One writes, “Danny is extremely intentional with his course design; he does not just teach us the material, but rather tosses the material into our hands and gives us the tools to work with it.” Another writes, “Danny is humble, candid, and approachable. He actively invites his students into his teaching and creative processes, offering each of us an entirely unique learning experience as well as opportunities for self-growth… There is never a day I walk into one of Danny’s classes without an eagerness to learn, knowing that whatever Danny has in store for us will be totally unexpected, engaging, and memorable.”

Cohen’s Dean notes that his pedagogical influence extends beyond his own courses, writing, “The Undergraduate Curriculum Committee in SESP has greatly benefitted from his expertise in thinking more critically about how we’re creating curriculum that will allow our students to have a real impact on social change.”

Cohen is an Associate Professor of Instruction in the School of Education and Social Policy with an additional appointment at The Crown Family Center for Jewish and Israel Studies. He earned his Ph.D. in Learning Sciences at Northwestern.

Sara Owsley Sood

Charles Deering McCormick Distinguished Professor of Instruction 

Since she arrived at Northwestern in the fall of 2014, Sara Sood’s introductory computer science course has more than doubled in size with current enrollment over 350 students. With such large classes comes great variability in background knowledge among students, some having been exposed to computer science since elementary school and others trying out programming for the first time. Sood addresses this directly with students by offering context for the disparity, and explicitly stating that ‘newbies’ belong in the class and that posturing or showing off is not welcome in her classroom. Sood seeks to foster “an environment that encourages growth mindset where students know that their intelligence is not fixed, but rather they can grow.” Students echo this. One wrote, “Both in the way that she teaches and in the guidelines she sets for student conduct in her classes, she makes sure that students can feel comfortable learning at their own pace and asking questions.”

Sood also identified a gap in the introductory curriculum that made it difficult for some students who had not programmed in high school to attempt a CS major or minor. To address this she designed and delivered a bridge course in which students could strengthen their programming skills by building Artificial Intelligence applications. A student notes, “A crucial aspect of the classroom environment that Professor Sood cultivates is that she makes a concerted effort to level the playing field for students who do not have any coding experience.”

Sood is especially dedicated to increasing the participation of women and other underrepresented groups in computer science. Sood’s chair wrote, “I frequently hear about Professor Sood and how she affected students’ academic lives. Many of our students, in particular females, made the decision to study CS as their major or minor as a direct result of taking EECS 111 with her.” A former student wrote, “After taking one class with her, I took every other class that she taught that fit my schedule. As a woman studying engineering, it was especially inspiring to be taught by her.”

Sood is the Chookaszian Family Teaching Professor (Associate Professor of Instruction) in Computer Science. She earned her Ph.D. in Computer Science at Northwestern in 2007.