May 28, 1998
Vol. 17, No. 17

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    Booth Prizes: Graduate students honored for excellence in teaching

    By Jennifer Vanasco
    News Office

    Four graduate students who have made outstanding contributions to the instructional programs in the College have been awarded Booth Prizes for Excellence in Teaching.

    The prizes will be presented to Louis Fogel, Tonia Korves, Rebecca Sandefur and Jae-Hoon Shim, at 4 p.m. today, May 28, in Classics 10.

    The Booth Prizes, which recognize the important contributions that graduate students make to the College, were established in 1991 in honor of Wayne Booth, the George M. Pullman Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in English Language & Literature, on the occasion of his retirement. The winners, who are nominated by students and faculty members, each receive a $2,000 cash award.

    The awards parallel the Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, which recognize distinguished teachers on the faculty.

    Louis Fogel Physical Sciences Division

    "Teaching is one of the things I like best about chemistry," Louis Fogel said. "It makes you feel good to help other students learn the material."

    This is Fogel's first year teaching at Chicago, though he spent a year teaching chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison while a graduate student there.

    This year, after transferring to Chicago, he spent the first two quarters teaching organic chemistry to pre-med students. "They're pretty stressed-out," he said, "but it's good -- they really absorb a lot, and it makes teaching them rewarding. I put a lot of preparation time into it."

    Fogel said that he has risen to the challenge of teaching such dedicated students by presenting practice exams and reviewing the answers, and by spending a lot of one-on-one time with students. "Each quarter, I look for who's struggling, and I approach them and work with them for an hour or so a week. For example, second quarter there was a student who was doing very well, but then she failed the first exam second quarter. I worked with her, and she wound up doing well in the class."

    He attributes his teaching success in part to the lab director Vera Dragosich, who he described as "incredibly organized," and to the faculty members he assisted. "It would have been an impossible job if Dr. [Viresh] Rawal [Associate Professor in Chemistry] and Dr. [Joseph] Piccirilli hadn't given the T.A.s their lecture notes and helped us along," he said. Piccirilli, Assistant Professor in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, was honored for his teaching this year with the Quantrell Award.

    Fogel hopes students leave his class understanding chemistry -- and maybe even liking it. "So many people are afraid of organic chemistry," he said. "I try to make it as painless as possible."

    Tonia Korves Biological Sciences Division

    Tonia Korves was "kind of shocked" when she heard she had won a Booth Prize, since this was her first quarter teaching. "But I did put a lot of preparation time in," she said.

    Korves, a student in the Ecology & Evolution Ph.D. program, also spent a lot of time working with individual students when she taught a lab section of Genetics & Development. "There were a couple students having problems who I was concerned about and tried to help out. I enjoy helping people to understand the material better."

    She learned a lot while teaching, Korves said. "You have to be on your toes when you're in the lab," she said. "You need to figure things out as you go along."

    Korves is looking forward to teaching again now that she has more experience. "It was a real challenge, harder than I thought it was going to be," she said, "but it was more fun than I thought it was going to be, too."

    Rebecca Sandefur Social Sciences Division

    Rebecca Sandefur, working toward her Ph.D. in Sociology, spent the year teaching the Core course Democracy in the Social Sciences.

    "It is wonderful," Sandefur said. "The students I'm teaching are some of the most thoughtful, engaged, intelligent people I know. We have great discussions."

    Previously, Sandefur was a teaching assistant for three graduate-level classes in sociology. When she heard that the department was looking to add a Core course with an empirical component, she jumped at the opportunity to be involved.

    "I was able to help design the course, which was a valuable experience. Students in the class read Rousseau, Toqueville and others, and then learned about statistics, read empirical studies and wrote a long research paper."

    Sandefur's favorite part of the class was actually the time she spent after class, one-on-one with students. "I enjoyed office hours, talking about their projects or just talking. I think some undergraduate students find it easier to approach graduate students than faculty members. I don't know why, but I do know their comfort level led to good discussions."

    Sandefur said that most graduate students don't teach in the Core, "which is a shame. If they can, they should do it. The students take ideas very seriously. It's a great experience and a lot of fun."

    Jae-Hoon Shim Humanities Division

    Jae-Hoon Shim teaches intermediate Korean and early Korean history. "I've learned so much from my students about how to teach," he said. "The language class is a year-long class, and I realized when I started teaching Korean history this quarter how much I've learned about teaching."

    Shim is currently Lecturer in East Asian Languages & Civilizations, and will continue his appointment for another year after he defends his dissertation on May 29. His research is in early Chinese history and archeology, but he enjoys teaching Korean. "The field is different, but the teaching is the same. I'm sure this experience will help my future teaching in history. I've learned good skills."

    Those skills have kept his class invigorated. "Since it is a year-long class, students can get easily bored. I try to make it interesting to them, to keep them happy. I give them a lot of information about Korean culture and encourage discussions. I really appreciate my students."