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CTL Lead Teaching Fellows Receive 2017 Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching

by | May 15, 2017

Two members of the Center for Teaching and Learning’s graduate student community are recipients of Columbia University’s 2017 Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching by a Graduate Student. The CTL congratulates Jason Wong, doctoral candidate in Sustainable Development, and Sahar Ullah, doctoral candidate in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies (MESAAS) and the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society (ICLS).

The awards recognize teaching excellence at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and honor those who have had a lasting influence on the intellectual development of our students. Each year the University bestows these awards to three graduate student instructors to honor individual excellence and celebrate the important contributions they make to our educational offerings.

Jason Wong

Wong, a doctoral candidate in Sustainable Development, has provided instruction for several courses at Columbia including Challenges of Sustainable Development, Economics of the Environment, and Globalization and its Risks.

As a 2015-2016 Lead Teaching Fellow, Wong participated in a range of programs at the CTL including the Inclusive Teaching Forum, Slow Teaching workshop series, Teachers’ Lounges, and Building a Teaching Portfolio workshop. As part of the 2015 Innovative Teaching Summer Institute, Wong developed a collaborative project titled Dawn of the Jet Age for a sustainable development course he wishes to teach in the future. Through a series of assignments, students combine qualitative and quantitative research to compose a professional consulting report and presentation on a new airline or a proposed merger.

As an LTF, Wong facilitated a workshop, Teaching Well is a Piece of Cake: Inaugural Teaching Workshop for Sustainable Development, for doctoral students. As part of this workshop, Wong conducted a census with Teaching Fellows on the state of the teaching in the department, outlined possible policy actions, and then engaged Teaching Fellows in activities to consider diversified teaching methods. Wong’s second LTF workshop for peers in his department focused on distilling constructive feedback from teaching evaluations.

Wong is particularly passionate about mentoring undergraduate students. Earlier this month, Wong accompanied 6 students enrolled in Challenges of Sustainable Development to present at the 3rd Annual Asia/Environment Research Conference held at Bard College. The students presented their sustainable solutions to the haze problem faced in Singapore, which was part of the innovative “Hackathon”-style coursework Wong had designed for the course.

Sahar Ullah

Ullah, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies and the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, has provided instruction for several courses at Columbia including Literature Humanities; Introduction to Islamic Civilization; Contemporary Islamic Civilization; Introductory Arabic; Second-Year Intermediate Arabic; and Third-Year Arabic. Sahar is also the recipient of the Core Preceptor Award for Teaching Excellence.

As a 2015-2016 Lead Teaching Fellow, Ullah participated in a range of programs including the Building a Teaching Portfolio workshop series, Teachers’ Lounges, Documenting Your Teaching workshop series, and the 2016 Innovative Teaching Summer Institute where she designed the Spotifying Arabic Literature assignment that has been used by instructors internationally. She served as a panelist at the CTL’s teaching orientation for graduate student instructors in the humanities and social sciences in September 2015.

As an LTF, Ullah facilitated an interactive workshop, Instructor Identity and Authority in the MESAAS Classroom, that engaged graduate instructors and faculty in scenarios in which instructors’ authority is challenged based on their identities in the classroom. Her second LTF event was a roundtable on The Impact of Surveillance on Teaching and Learning featuring Columbia faculty members Hina Shamsi, Director of the ACLU’s National Security Project and lecturer at Columbia Law School, and Dr. Carl Hart from the Department of Psychology.

As a 2016-2017 Senior Lead Teaching Fellow (SLTF), Ullah served as a mentor to an assigned cohort of incoming Lead Teaching Fellows, completed advanced teaching-related projects, and coordinated communication and outreach efforts. She collaborated with SLTF Ben Hansberry from the Department of Music on facilitating a CTL learning community on the interplay of role play and inclusive teaching. In Spring 2017, Ullah’s work on syllabus design and inclusive teaching was featured at the Celebration of Teaching and Learning Symposium, and she presented her work with the CTL at the Teaching Transformations Summit at Princeton University.  

Ullah is committed to diversity work in academia. Along with five doctoral students, Ullah was a member of the inaugural Office of Academic Diversity Research Collective. Ullah has also worked with the Office of University Life in developing programming for campus conversations on race, ethnicity, and inclusion. Most recently, she was invited to present her work on inclusive teaching, research, and programming at the C3 summit The Transformative Power of Race in the Academy at Williams College.

All award recipients were honored at the GSAS Convocation on Sunday, May 14, 2017. There were 400 nominees for the award.