Skip to content

Winners of the 2018-19 Outstanding Teaching Awards

It is with great pleasure that we announce the winners of the CSSH 2018-19 Outstanding Teaching Awards:

Chris Parsons, Assistant Professor, Department of History. With this award, the college recognizes Chris Parsons as an innovative and passionate teacher who challenges his students to examine the connections between historical studies and the world today. His courses in science, technology, and the environment engage students across departments and provide rich experiential learning opportunities that include building Galilean telescopes, encoding recipes, and exploring digital mapping tools. Student recommendations and evaluations have praised Parsons for his ability to integrate the sciences and humanities in meaningful ways. Professor Parsons is also a leader in encouraging independent student research and writing. He helped found, and remains the faculty advisor for, Nuance, the student-led journal for undergraduate research in CSSH.

Alicia Sasser Modestino, Associate Professor, School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Department of Economics. With this award, the college recognizes Sasser Modestino’s student-centered approach to teaching. The committee was impressed with Professor Alicia Sasser Modestino’s commitment to communicating with her students via her use of mid-course reviews. She facilitates student learning by adopting novel classroom exercises, and her student evaluations and recommendations cite her dedication to teaching timely topics through well-crafted curricular materials. Professor Sasser Modestino is a leader outside of the classroom, helping to provide others with a better understanding of gender bias in academia.

Aaron Block, Associate Teaching Professor, Department of English. With this award, the college recognizes Aaron Block as an exceptional teacher whose student-centered course design, assignments, and assessment practices epitomize writing as a social activity. By working together to identify goals, create rubrics, and complete projects, students shape the learning environment through their writing and rhetorical analysis. The projects in Professor Block’s classes challenge students to take risks, expand their definition of writing, and recognize the various ways they can contribute to conversations that are important to them. Professor Block’s commitment to collaboration extends to his leadership in the Writing Program through his active engagement on committees, in workshops, and when mentoring new faculty.

Ruth Economou, Part-Time Lecturer, Human Services Program and School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs. With this award, the college recognizes Ruth Economou’s commitment to students experiencing the theory, practice, skill, and reflection in her counseling courses. The committee was impressed with Professor Economou’s ability to act as a leader when faced with difficult questions of the day and to help students slow things down to find starting points when faced with complex interactions. She excels in teaching her students how to empathize and listen, and her desire to provide her students with a space to reflect serves as an important pedagogic tool in educating our next generation of counselors.

Ieke De Vries, PhD Doctoral Candidate, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. With this award, the college recognizes Ieke De Vries’ effectiveness as an instructor and commends her extensive curriculum development. The committee was impressed by the number of student evaluations that spoke to De Vries’ passion for her subject material, as well as the detailed nature of her course materials. In describing their experience in De Vries’ class on Human Trafficking, one student commented that De Vries’ instruction “never felt like a lecture” but instead “felt like an engaging story she was sharing.” By relying on group assignments and by frequently inviting in guest speakers, De Vries’ teaching style is focused on creating community and fostering inclusive learning environments.

We would like to thank the members of the selection committee, the 2017-2018 CSSH Outstanding Teaching Award Winners, for their good work: Gretchen Heefner (History), Michael Stone (Economics), Melissa Wolter-Gustafson (English), and Liz Polcha (English). Many thanks also to our anonymous donors for their generosity in funding the awards.

More Stories

Storytelling takes center stage at the women who empower summit


Twitter has banned political ads. Is Facebook next?


A long-shot republican presidential candidate sees a path to the party convention. He’s not dreaming.