SHASS Levitan Teaching Awards | Gallery of Recipients  



The Best of the Best 

Recipients of the James A. and Ruth Levitan Teaching Award in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, are among the finest teachers at the Institute. About these teachers, Dean Nobles said, "This prize honors those instructors in our School who have demonstrated outstanding success in teaching our undergraduate and graduate students. These great educators, who are nominated by students themselves, represent the very best academic leadership in the School."  

Warmest congratulations to all.  

News: Announcing the 2017 SHASS Levitan Teaching Award recipients

 

2017 | Claire Conceison
Professor, Music and Theater Arts


“Professor Conceison is one of the most incredible professors I have had the privilege of taking classes from. She not only has expertise in the domain of sport as performance (which involves knowledge of both sport and performing arts) but also cares so much about spreading that knowledge to her students. Her passion for the subject translates into her teaching and her ability to get her students excited about coming to class every week.”

 

2017 | Donca Steriade
Professor, Linguistics


“Donca's teaching style is very engaging. She is at once knowledgeable and unbelievably approachable. I asked her how I, an undergrad with one semester left until graduation, could do linguistics research. She immediately reached out to other faculty members, and found one that would take me as a UROP. Now, I am completing a minor in linguistics, I owe my enamoration with the field to Donca's teaching.”

2017 | William Cutter
Lecturer, Music and Theater Arts


“He is clearly very passionate about music and teaching. It was always very easy to ask him questions and he was always excited to provide detailed answers and offer individual help to his students. I looked forward to attending his class everyday with enthusiasm.”

2017 | Hee-Jeong Jeong
Lecturer, Global Studies and Languages


“Lecturer Jeong’s style and the way she organizes the curriculum are highly conducive to learning the vocabulary and grammar beyond straight memorizing. She doesn’t just rely on assigning homework to help us learn. In class we watch clips from Korean television, and she ties in pop-culture and youth slang to make the class more relevant. We also learn about mannerisms and cultural differences.”

2017 | Maria Khotimsky
Lecturer, Global Studies and Languages


“In class she is extremely encouraging, constantly pointing out things that the students are doing well. Outside of class, Maria offered to meet with me individually on a regular basis to go over grammar and vocabulary in painstaking detail. It is evident how Maria has adopted a style of instruction that fosters the students’ interest in the Russian language and Russian culture.”

2017 | Jetson Leder-Luis
Teaching Assistant, Economics


“Every day, Jetson arrived to class full of energy with carefully planned out lectures. Jetson was good at both explanation of theory and practice problems, a balance that few classes I've had have reached. Making us good at solving problems—while always stopping to talk about the consequences of the solutions—demystified economics for me.”

 

 

 

 

2016

2016 | Junot Díaz
Professor, Comparative Media Studies / Writing


“Junot's class changed the way that I (and probably all of my classmates) read, watch, and construct stories. … We always connect the fictional worlds that we study to the world we live in, and work to understand the impact that these stories can have — both in reflecting and addressing human fears about the world, or commenting on the current state of it.”

 

2016 | Lerna Ekmekcioglu
Professor, History


“Professor Ekmekcioglu has made a long lasting impact in how I view the world. As a Chemical Engineering student, I never thought that learning about gender studies would make me a better engineer, but its an undeniable fact. Professor Ekmekcioglu has given me the foundation to think critically about situations I have been in where established societal gender norms threatened to make me feel inferior for being an engineer. But instead, I have felt empowered and confident.”

 

2016 | Masami Ikeda-Lamm
Lecturer, Global Studies and Languages


“Masami Ikeda-Lamm makes learning Japanese an enjoyable experience. Every class, she seems to have so much energy and it makes the lesson extremely entertaining.”


“Ikeda sensei is one of the best instructors I have met. While using frequently is the best way to learn a language, she always makes a lot of preparation such as coming up with a lot of real situations that require us to use those learnt patterns effectively.”

 

2016 | Roberto Rey Agudo
Lecturer, Global Studies and Languages


“Professor Roberto Rey Agudo is a wonderful teacher, he puts a lot of effort into making sure his students are not only learning Spanish, but having fun. His classes always include a physical activity and a way to ensure his students are engaging with one another. Whether it be a team scavenger hunt or partner discussions, Professor Agudo keeps the class interesting and fun, on top of teaching a lot of material quickly.”

 

2016 | Charles Shadle
Lecturer, Music and Theater Arts


“In my twenty-plus years of musical training, I have had many teachers, but none more engaged with me than Charles Shadle in understanding the construction of music. The first class I took with him was a revelation. The very foundations of music theory, often considered dry, were brought to life through his knowledge and his skill in realizing impromptu examples at the keyboard.”

 

2016 | Ludwig Straub
Teaching Assistant, Economics


“Ludwig was an excellent teaching assistant, but moreso he went out of his way to help us through the very challenging first quarter of the economics PhD program. Especially following the loss of our classmate Cara, Ludwig stood out in making himself a resource. Ludwig exemplifies the type of instructor I hope to be and the type of teaching assistant we should have across the Institute.”

 

 

2015

2015 | Michael Cuthbert
Professor, Music and Theater Arts


"He genuinely cares about each student, and as concerns come up throughout the semester he addresses each student with absolute care and compassion. He also encourages students to attend his office hours, and to email him with questions and for feedback on their work. He has sent hundreds of emails to students this semester, each filled with both positive feedback and recommendations for improvement.”

 

2015 | Mary Fuller
Professor and Head, Literature


"She definitely helped to rekindle a love of reading I lost upon entering MIT; since taking her class, ie in the past year, I've done more independent fiction reading than I had in the three years that had preceded her class, combined.”

 

 

2015 | Merritt Roe Smith
Leverett Howell and William King Cutten Professor of the History of Technology


"Professor Smith was so clearly passionate about the subject that it was almost impossible for the students to not feel passion for it, too. Having a professor with such a genuine love for teaching not only engrains the subject matter more deeply in students’ minds, but it encourages students to strive to go beyond the professor’s expectations and to pursue an aspect of the subject that they too are passionate about.”

 

2015 | Jing Wang
S.C. Fang Professor of Chinese Languages & Culture, Global Studies and Languages


"Professor Wang consistently challenges our viewpoints and ideologies and makes us think more profoundly about Chinese culture and history. She has reawakened a curiosity for cultural understanding and new perspectives that I have only ever experienced abroad and I am so grateful that to have that joy for something other than technical engineering.”

 

2015 | Takako Aikawa
Lecturer, Global Studies and Languages 


"She learned early on that having a relaxed environment to talk and practice was very helpful to those of us who got nervous in class, so she began hosting ‘Extra Sessions’ on Friday nights. This not only gave us extra practice, but also made us more confident in our abilities.”

2015 | Min-Min Liang
Lecturer, Global Studies and Languages 


"I always come to class to see her with a smile on her face and a friendly greeting for everyone. She really takes the time to understand her students, maintaining a balance between being a class instructor and empathizing with us as people.”

 

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2015 | Haohsiang Liao
Lecturer, Global Studies and Languages


"His purpose for the class is not simply to teach the language but to give us the tools needed to properly interact in a Chinese cultural environment.  We gain a huge understanding of the nuances of Chinese language interaction”

 

2015 | Jin Zhang
Lecturer, Global Studies and Languages


"I have walked into her office with questions on Chinese countless times, and every time she not only answered all the questions I had, but provided feedback on how my Chinese has improved, with advice for where I could improve on a little more. She always makes sure to record all of our oral presentations and provides meticulous feedback on each and every word (which is especially helpful in a tonal language like Chinese).”

 

 

2014

2014 | Christopher Leighton
Assistant Professor, History

 

"Professor Leighton has carefully steered classes with diverse backgrounds to a deeper understanding of Chinese history. The readings he's selected have provided a foundation for class discussions, which he keeps lively and ensures all students participate in. He has always been approachable and helpful, providing thoughtful and timely feedback on assignments and helping whenever I've had questions or wanted advice."

 

Chappell Lawson

2014 | Susan Silbey
Leon and Anne Goldberg Professor of Humanities,
Sociology and Anthropology
Head, MIT Anthropology


"The most valuable thing students can learn from their teachers is not the content of a course but how the instructor thinks about it , uses it, draws on it, and advances it — and I cannot think of anyone who is able to do this better or does this as generously as Prof. Silbey. Prof. Silbey brought her own research designs and interview transcripts to class — showed us how those designs were conceptualized, how the interviews were conducted, coded, analyzed to contribute to add to social knowledge. This gave us confidence in our abilities to develop our own slowly evolving research projects."

2014 | Lucas Stanczyk
Assistant Professor, Political Science


"Prof. Stanczyk came to class every day in 17.01 with an outline of what he desired to cover that day — not for himself, as many professors do — but as a handout for all of us. I have certainly never witnessed this level of dedication in the variety of other SHASS classes I've taken. He is the most impactful teacher, the most relevant to my everyday life (in enlightening my view of it philosophically), and the only professor to make me seriously consider an academic career."

2014 | Patricia Tang
Associate Professor of Music


"Professor Tang's class exposed me to the joy and adventure of ethnomusicology in general, and stimulated me to look at all music differently from now on. She is more than approachable, always positive, and genuinely loves African music in a way that inspires her students to go beyond the typical HASS requirements and develop their own musical interests."

 

2014 | Ellen Crocker
Lecturer, Global Studies and Languages 

 

"Her personal impact on me has been very significant; thanks to her encouragement, I decided to pursue my interests in German, literature, and poetry by earning a minor in German studies, and I have benefited enormously from the additional stimulating courses. I feel that I have learned more about literature (in any language) from Frau Crocker, through her guidance in reading and writing, than I have from any other teacher."

2014 | Cathy Culot
Lecturer, Global Studies and Languages 


"What distinguishes Prof. Culot is not only her effectiveness in covering all the material stated in the syllabus, but also the different ways that she expanded our knowledge beyond what was required for the class. She was always open to exploring different topics in the politics, culture and economy of francophone countries and this made a great impact on my interest in both continuing my studies in French as well as participating in study/work abroad programs as MISTI."

 

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2014 | David Deveau
Lecturer, Music

 

"David's dedication extends far beyond the classroom, showing a genuine care for his students' success. While the goal of each semester's lessons, coachings, or seminars is to prepare for a culminating performance, David never sees such a performance as the end of the road. He has never failed to follow up with me after each concert, offering praise and encouragement to keep playing even after what seemed like the worst performances, and adding gentle criticisms even after the most successful. These end-of-concert suggestions are always general and open-ended ("think about your pedaling" or "watch the tension in your body," to name a couple), providing important food for thought for the months to come."

 

2014 | Matthew Rognlie
Teaching Assistant, Economics

 

"Matthew is the best teacher I've ever had. And I don't say that lightly: while getting to MIT, I've benefited from the instruction, guidance, and patience of many good teachers. The material in 14.451 was the most difficult of all the courses I was taking last semester, but Matt's teaching made learning the material substantially easier than in my other courses."

 

"I think Matt's effectiveness begins with the amount of preparation he puts into every lecture he gives. While he lectures, he is both clear in his explanations and welcoming of questions from students. Matt is naturally talented at teaching, but he complements his talent with a level of preparation and approachability that is unparalleled among my other instructors."

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2014 | Alec Worsnop
Teaching Assistant, Political Science

 

"Alec infuses each lecture and recitation with a tremendous ability to provide clear, concise, and thoughtful examples for the topic at hand directly from his own research. He not only addresses efficiently the material in the course, but he also contextualizes the material within the political science field. Alec knows how to clearly communicate about student weaknesses and strengths in their work. He has made the coursework for the class truly iterative, which is how the real research the course is meant to mirror is conducted."

 

 

2013

2013 | David Autor
Professor, Economics

 

"Professor Autor has made a huge impact on me, as well as my MIT experience as a whole. He is one of few professors that I specifically seek out at extra lectures outside of class. I've even looked up other classes that he teaches, though I'm not an economics major. His insightful thinking style and amazing lectures have inspired me to learn more in economics, and I truly feel that I learned valuable skills and information from him this semester."

 

Chappell Lawson

2013 | Chappell Lawson
Associate Professor, Political Science


"Professor Lawson has tremendously affected my experience at MIT. Initially a computer scientist with a slight interest in politics, I have developed a whole new approach to life and what I want to do with it, and I can say with confidence that Prof. Lawson has been a key player in this transformation."
 

"He is the most approachable professor I have seen here. Last year, I spent - literally - hours discussing events and life prospects with him after classes, both individually and with other students. This year, I approached him with questions about my future aspirations, and he invited me to lunch with turned into a long walk (which had critical impact on me). Honestly, I'd be in a very different position if it hadn't been for his continuous advice, guidance and mentorship."

 

2013 | Tong Chen
Lecturer, Global Studies and Languages 


"Chen Lao Shi truly connects with his students. He always encourages us, and I can tell that he is genuinely proud of me when I make progress with my Chinese. I do not know a single one of his students who dislikes him, and everyone has a tremendous amount of respect for him."
 

"Chen Laoshi goes above and beyond the call of duty as a Chinese teacher. He is extremely knowledgeable about the Chinese language and makes sure we learn every last detail. Aside from this, I think I speak for all the students when I say he is a good friend. He knows each and every one of us very well (especially those of us from all the way back in Chinese 4), and he treats us all with respect."

 

2013 | Dave Custer
Lecturer, Experimental Study Group and Writing Across the Curriculum


"I would like to nominate Dave Custer, ES.033 professor, for his unique way of teaching, which encourages students to establish connections between presented concepts. His usual ambiguity and tangents distinguish him and make the classroom an interactive space. He is extremely approachable and always willing to help, regardless of the subject you may be struggling with."
 

"After taking Dave Custer's class my attitude towards writing and communication has changed, and I will handle future writing tasks with more confidence. Dave Custer's class my favorite class this year. Although I know I will miss the class, I am comforted knowing that future classes will be enlightened as I was."

 

2013 | Margarita Groeger
Lecturer, Global Studies and Languages 

 

"She is an educator who seems to genuinely love teaching and helping students learn. It's almost impossible to not enjoy class when your teacher has such a great attitude; I have never seen someone more excited to teach! She is very friendly and approachable and willing to listen to her students. Her encouragement creates an incredible atmosphere in the classroom."

 

 

 

2013 | Frederick Harris
Lecturer, Music


"Fred is a very approachable and friendly teacher who is extremely dedicated to his job and his students. He comes to rehearsal prepared and is almost always well-tempered and patient despite what the band members may be. His humor, sincerity and dedication have made FJE very worthwhile for me and all my fellow bandmates, despite our heavy MIT workload. "
 

"I believe that a good teacher not only gives his/her students the opportunity to learn but also gets them excited about what they are learning. Fred does both and I continue to have a great time performing Jazz with the FJE under his instruction. He genuinely cares which is something that is always great to see in a teacher."

 

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2013 | Isaac Gould
Teaching Assistant, Linguistics

 

"His weekly recitations didn't just regurgitate what I had all ready learned in class. Instead, Isaac would approach the problems discussed in that week's lectures from a fresh angle, sometimes adding new material where it was relevant, sometimes explaining old ideas in such a compelling way that I and the other students in my class gained a whole new perspective on them. In fact, those recitations were some of the most intellectually stimulating moments I've had so far at MIT (and that's saying something)."

 

 

2012

2012 | Arthur Bahr
Associate Professor, Literature


"He has positively impacted our class and taught us the importance of humanities courses in our lives. You can tell that he works very hard to inspire his students and get them to think critically, and he has always embraced even connecting this to our science lives."
 

"Professor Bahr leads wonderful discussions and makes me want to do the readings not for my grade but so that I can have the pleasure of participating. He's energetic and in touch with his students."

 

2012 | Eugenie Brinkema 
Assistant Professor of Contemporary Literature and Media, Literature

 

"I feel like I have actually learned, in [Eugenie Brinkema’s] classes, how better to form an idea, how better to voice an opinion, how better to structure an essay, and how better to engage with the things that are of interest to me in the world around me. Her philosophy is that the whole world is a text, and that the analysis we do in class is a framework for understanding the story that society tells."
 

"Professor Brinkema is the most incredible professor I’ve had at MIT. She is one of the few professors I still make an effort to visit even after leaving her class. She brings sheer enthusiasm to class every day and encourages a passion for learning."

2012 | Graham Jones 
Assistant Professor, Anthropology

 

"Every reading that Dr. Jones has assigned has opened my eyes to a facet of life and culture whose presence previously eluded me — for this, I could not be more grateful. … This class has completely changed the way I evaluate different cultures and react to different peoples."
 

"[Graham Jones] managed to impress upon me the lasting philosophy of being an anthropologist in everyday life—of gently probing and questioning the fascinating array of people, processes, cultures, and organizations around us."

 

2012 | Nilma Dominique
Lecturer, Global Studes and Languages 


"What I love most about Professor Dominique is her energy and spirit. She gives her classroom life. Although Portuguese II is my last class of the day, and during a time when I am really tired, I always feel refreshed after attending her class."
 

"Nilma [Dominique] is one of the most gifted language teachers I have ever had. She is vibrant and engaged, encouraging all students to understand and enjoy the process of learning. I look forward to class every day because of her clear teaching methods—which conveys more information in a better way than the textbook—and because of her inimitable energy."

2012 | Jane Dunphy
Lecturer, Gobal Studies and Languages 


"Professor Dunphy has a gifted way with students. Everyone in her classes is given personal attention, and she is very invested in her students' growth. …Her positivity and willingness to help have really had an impact on me here at MIT."
 

"Amazing class! Jane [Dunphy] was a terrific teacher and stimulated my interest in a subject that I was already highly passionate about. She was always available and helped everyone in the class stay organized."

2012 | Lucy Marx
Lecturer, Writing and Humanistic Studies


"I took my final HASS class with Lucy [Marx], and she was the most enjoyable teacher I had. …Before her class, writing was one of the few things I dreaded about school. Surprisingly, I found myself working on her assignments before all my other classes, since they were exciting and I would learn about myself from my own writing."
 

"Lucy [Marx] encouraged participation and helpful critiques during discussions. These helped me, at least, to think about my writing more and try harder to make it better."

2012 | Gabriel Carroll
Teaching Assistant, Economics


"Gabriel [Carroll] is simply an outstanding teacher. Countless times I have been completely stuck on a topic from class, only to have him explain it (either inside class or outside) with incredible clarity and precision."

"Gabriel is without a doubt the best TA I have had at MIT."

 

 

2011

 

2011 | Heather Paxson
Associate Professor, Anthropology


"What she has given me (the ability to think critically about social issues, take them apart, and form ideas then express them professionally in creative ways) is something that will last long after I leave MIT."  
 

 

David Pesetsky

2011 | Will Broadhead
Associate Professor, History

 

"Professor Broadhead has inspired a curiosity and appreciation for ancient history that will remain with us long after we graduate."

2011 | Ken Oye
Associate Professor, Political Science


"Not only was this class the most challenging, enriching, and thought-provoking class I have taken in Political Science, this class helped me to determine what I wanted to do with my life."

2011 | Adam Boyles
Lecturer, Music and Theater Arts


"I came to MIT with a strong interest in music….and this interest has become a major and will be a life-long pursuit especially thanks to Adam [Boyles] and his encouragement and superb teaching."
 

"The MIT Symphony Orchestra (MITSO) has grown tremendously under the skilled baton of Dr. Adam Boyles.…While he cares about the sound of the music, he really cares about the musicians in the ensemble…MITSO is one of the reasons I now consider MIT to be my second home."

2011 | Howard "Skip" Eiland
Lecturer, Literature

 

"Without Professor Eiland's guidance and encouragement, I wouldn't have taken literature classes beyond Comedy (21L.421) here. I enjoy writing. Moreover, I enjoy literature. A difficult text is no longer a burden, but a challenge—a pleasure. When I study it with Professor Eiland, I know that he'll present its implications and influences. I'm still amazed at how applicable the basic ideas we learned in Comedy are."

2011 | Teresa Neff
Lecturer, Music and Theater Arts


"The passion that Professor Neff brings into the class has opened many doors for me. After every class, I came out wanting to learn more. … I am confident that her teaching and contagious excitement for music has revolutionized the way I will view music for the rest of my life."

2011 | Kym Ragusa
Lecturer, Writing and Humanistic Studies


"Kym [Ragusa]'s classroom was a place of safety and comfort, a place in which open dialogue on tense and usually ill-understood concepts of race, gender, and all other boundaries that obscure rather than delineate, was encouraged. I learned a whole lot about writing in Kym's class, but so much more about the world."

 

Former Levitan Award for Teaching Excellence Winners

 

 

2010

 

Faculty 
Peter Child (Music and Theater Arts)
Steven Ryan (Economics)
Lily Tsai (Political Science)


Lecturers 
Rebecca Faery (Writing and Humanistic Studies)
Steve Strang (Writing and Humanistic Studies)
Amadou Lamine Touré (Music and Theater Arts)


Teaching Assistant 
Omer Preminger (Linguistics)

 

 

2009

 

Faculty
Chris Capozzola (History)
Sally Haslanger (Linguistics and Philosophy)
Stefan Helmreich (Anthropology)

Lecturers
Laura Harrington (Music and Theater Arts)
Martin Marks (Music and Theater Arts)
Douglas Morgenstern (Foreign Languages and Literatures)

Teaching Assistant
Brandon Lehr (Economics)