9 recognized with award for superior teaching

Nine faculty received the 2016 George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching, which honors top Rice professors as determined by the votes of alumni who graduated within the past two, three and five years. Below are the recipients and their comments about the most important lesson they hope their students will remember five years after graduation.

 

Anthony Várilly-Alvarado

Anthony Várilly-Alvarado

Anthony Várilly-Alvarado, assistant professor of mathematics

“What I want my students to remember most is that math is beautiful. Most people I meet cringe when I tell them I am a mathematician. The most common knee-jerk reactions are: ‘I hated math in school’ or ‘Math was my worst subject.’ I’d like to change this attitude, one student at a time. When a former student meets a mathematician in the future, I’d like them to say something like ‘Math is cool! When I took it in college it was pretty difficult, but I really enjoyed how it all came together.’”

 

Jenifer Bratter

Jenifer Bratter

Jenifer Bratter, associate professor of sociology

“The most important lesson I want my students to learn is that mistakes are not the end; they can be the beginning. Some of the best times in the classroom were spent with students sharing something that I didn’t expect that allowed me to rethink what we were discussing. Beyond this, what I most want students to walk away with is a confidence and urgency to ask questions and think critically about finding answers. I’ve been amazed and humbled by students who continue to think sociologically after leaving the sociology classroom and who perhaps come to different or more nuanced conclusions than they would have if they hadn’t entered our classes.”

 

Carl Caldwell

Carl Caldwell

Carl Caldwell, the Samuel G. McCann Professor of History

“My courses seek to provide many lessons: about the fragility of democracies and the ideologies of dictatorships, about the way political actors reflect on and misrepresent complex systems, about the role of utopias in addressing real world problems. But the single most important lesson I hope that students take away with them is the sense of stepping outside of themselves, of their own routines and closely felt beliefs, in order to examine the world from a distance. Recognizing that objects or systems or ideas are strange, refusing to reduce problems or politics or society to slogans and tweets, and reflecting on the world outside of oneself; such is the experience I hope to create in the classroom, and which I hope remains with them for the rest of their lives. That and learning to deal with excruciatingly long sentences.”

Jason Hafner

Jason Hafner

Jason Hafner, associate professor of physics and astronomy and of chemistry

“I hope they remember that everything they see in the world around them can be described by physical laws. I also hope they have learned not to take that world too seriously, and that everybody looks better in a pair of heels.”

 

 

Alma Novotny

Alma Novotny

Alma Novotny, lecturer of biochemistry and cell biology

“I want them to remember to take their work seriously and not themselves.”

 

 

 

Maria Oden

Maria Oden

Maria Oden, director of Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen and professor in the practice of engineering education

“I hope my students will remember their design project experiences and teams fondly, understanding and appreciating why I made them work so hard, communicate so much and stretch themselves way beyond their own expectations to solve challenges that seemed almost impossible.”

 

Rebecca Richards-Kortum

Rebecca Richards-Kortum

Rebecca Richards-Kortum, the Malcolm Gillis University Professor, director of the Institute of Biosciences and Bioengineering and of Rice 360° Institute for Global Health

“I hope they will remember to vote for me to receive the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching. (Joking) And I hope they will remember they don’t need anyone’s permission to help solve the world’s problems.”

 

 

Ruth Turley

Ruth Turley

Ruth Turley, professor of sociology, associate director of research for the Kinder Institute for Urban Research and director of the Kinder Institute’s Houston Education Research Consortium

“My hope for my students is that they will find meaning in what they learn and what they do with that knowledge. I don’t want students to focus on grades but on learning. I don’t want them to focus on jobs but on what they want to accomplish through those jobs and even apart from those jobs.” 

 

Gary Woods

Gary Woods

Gary Woods, professor in the practice of computer technology and electrical and computer engineering  

“Here is the lesson I hope the students remember: To be highly successful in engineering one needs strong technical skills but also excellent communication skills.”

 

 

About Arie Passwaters

Arie Wilson Passwaters is a Web editor in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.