UC Davis Today

  • Woman instructor in class pointing to white board

    Especially when it comes to statistics, students have high praise for Erin Melcon. "Her 8 a.m. lectures are worth getting up for!"

  • Woman instructor pointing to diagram on chalkboard

    Melcon tries to show that "all of statistics has very practical motivations behind the mundane formulas and that the conclusions we can draw are anything but mundane."

  • Two women sitting at table with laptop

    Danielle Joesten of Political Science defied the statistics. Here, on the right, she received unusually high ratings for a course heavy on them.

  • Woman sitting behind table with M&M candies on it

    Demonstrating creativity in the classroom, Joesten used M&Ms to teach an abstract theory.

  • Man instructs two students at hydraulic equipment

    Kaveh Zamani of Engineering, right, teaches a hydraulics lab.

  • Man peers through clear tank as students  take measurements

    He improves his already great teaching by drawing on the resources of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

  • Male instructor at front of classroom

    Hang-Wei Hao of Economics has served as a consultant to other teaching assistants through the same campus center.

  • Man points to fomula on chalkboard

    He wrote an open letter of both encouragement and practical tips for new international TAs.

  • Woman poses near open door

    LIna Yamashita of the School of Education brought her background in pedagogy to a scientific literacy course.

  • Woman with apple among tree branches

    She developed learning exercises for her discussion section. The professor made her lead TA this year.

  • Instructor interacts with student holding book

    Dyani Johns Taff of English focuses on collaboration in the classroom.

  • Women with arms wide in front of classroom

    Taff enjoys her role as guide for discussions. "But I also relish becoming a fellow investigator alongside my students."

  • Woman in front of map illustration

    Prized in American Studies, Christina Owens has developed expertise on how to teach international students and in the blended classroom.

  • Smiling woman with crossed arms.

    She co-wrote a handbook on best practices in an international student classroom.

  • Woman working in lab

    Lacey Baldiviez works for the Western Human Nutrition Research Center.

  • Woman smiles in lab

    Like fellow awardees, says a nominator, "her contributions have fundamentally improved the way we teach."

Top graduate student teachers

By Julia Ann Easley

Graduate instructor Lacey Baldiviez inspired her students to work hard, study diligently and strive to learn. “She showed me what it is like to be passionate about a subject and a career path,” said Cat Marks, a major in clinical nutrition.

Baldiviez, who graduated with a doctorate in nutrition biology in December, and seven doctoral students are being recognized for their contributions to teaching, to learning and to students’ lives. They are the winners of the Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Awards for 2014.

Here where the excellence of undergraduate teaching is celebrated, they have led or assisted in teaching almost 100 courses and are exemplary among some 2,500 graduate instructors who teach each year.

The voices of their students stand out among the nominations and letters of support that also come from professors and fellow graduate instructors. “She must become a professor!” raved one student on a course evaluation for Erin Melcon of statistics.

Performing all the teaching roles of a professor, the award winners have designed courses, prepared lectures, given and graded assignments, and more.

And while shining in the best traditions of teaching, they have also effectively used technology in the classroom — from data visualization to multimedia storytelling — and to connect with students beyond — from virtual office hours to course websites and more.

One of the hallmarks of the graduate teachers is their dedication to improving their skills. Kaveh Zamani of civil and environmental engineering took a six-week seminar series that helps associate instructors develop their teaching skills and additional teacher training offered through the Department of Mathematics.

The eight award winners have also contributed to the excellence of teaching beyond their own classroom. For example, Hang-Wei Hao of economics serves as a consultant to other graduate teaching assistants and instructors through the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. And Christina Owens of American studies co-wrote a handbook on best practices in an international student classroom, including how to use multimedia, blogs and quizzes.

Winners of the Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award for 2014

Lacey Baldiviez, Ph.D. in nutrition biology Fall 2013
Nutrition Assessment, spring 2013

Hang-Wei Hao, economics
Economy of East Asia, spring 2013

Danielle Joesten, political science
Scientific Study of Politics, Summer Sessions 2013

Erin Melcon, statistics
Statistics for the Biological Sciences, fall 2013

Christina Owens, cultural studies
Introduction to American Studies, fall 2013

Dyani Johns Taff, English
Literatures in English I, fall 2013

Lina Yamashita, education
Popular Science and Technology Writing, winter 2013

Kaveh Zamini, civil and environmental engineering
Engineering Hydraulics and lab, Summer Sessions 2013

Julia Ann Easley of Strategic Communications writes about Graduate Education, Undergraduate Education and more.

On the UC Davis home page: Economics TA Hang-Wei Hao is a consultant to other teaching assistants and serves as a role model for fellow international students. Karin Higgins took this photo. She and Gregory Urquiaga, both of Strategic Communications, were the photographers for the slideshow above.

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