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UW Graduate Students, Mentor Receive Annual Awards

May 7, 2018

The University of Wyoming’s Office of Academic Affairs and the Graduate Council have selected the 2018 winners of graduate student and mentor awards for outstanding teaching and research.

The Distinguished Graduate Faculty Mentor Award recognizes outstanding faculty commitment to graduate student mentoring. The John P. Ellbogen Outstanding Graduate Assistant Teaching Awards go to graduate teaching assistants to honor their excellence in teaching. The Outstanding Master’s Thesis Award recognizes a graduate student for an exemplary master’s thesis. And the Outstanding Dissertation Award is granted to a graduate student for an exemplary doctoral dissertation. Each award carries a stipend.

Here are the 2018 award winners:

Distinguished Graduate Faculty Mentor: Associate Professor Julia Obert, Department of English

“One of the most dedicated and effective graduate mentors at UW, Obert has had a profound and lasting impact on individual graduate students and on the overall culture of our graduate program,” wrote Department of English Interim Assistant Chair Peter Parolin. “As a leading scholar, she inducts our students into the rigors of scholarship, helping them set and meet ambitious academic goals. As a mentor, she combines razor-sharp insight with magnificent human empathy, with the result that her graduate students complete their degrees on time and proceed to top-tier Ph.D. programs.”

John P. Ellbogen Outstanding Graduate Assistant Teaching:

Adam Croft, School of Politics, Public Affairs and International Studies

“I have worked with dozens of teaching assistants during my 37 years as a university faculty member. Very few have been Adam Croft’s peer as a teaching assistant. None has been his superior,” wrote political science Professor Jim King. “He brings a degree of professionalism and a high standard of performance that all teaching assistants should use as their model of behavior.”

Anne Grass, Department of Visual and Literary Arts, Creative Writing Program

“I have seen many talented teachers in my 21 years in the English department, and I have no hesitation saying that Anne Grass belongs with the very best of them,” Parolin wrote. “Anne’s dynamic classroom includes multimodal teaching methods because she believes in finding ways to reach all the students in her classes, no matter what their level of talent or preparation. Caring for all her students, Anne goes out of her way to help them succeed.”

Taylor Kraft, Department of Family and Consumer Sciences

“Taylor engaged in the classroom environment with students with enthusiasm and a positive attitude,” wrote Assistant Professor Jill Keith. “His pleasure in the learning process and commitment to teaching and facilitating student learning have been evident. He is efficient, highly motivated and committed to providing the best education to students.”

Mary “Kati” Lear, Department of Psychology

“Taken together, across multiple settings, Kati Lear has proven herself to be an outstanding teacher,” wrote Professor Carolyn Pepper. “She cares deeply about her students, is organized in her presentations and challenges herself to grow as an instructor.”

Outstanding Master’s Thesis: Austin Carey, Department of Ecosystem Science and Management

“Mr. Carey’s thesis was titled ‘Partitioning surface and subsurface flow in a semi-arid rangeland watershed,’ and he carried out very challenging fieldwork and did substantial lab and computer analyses,” wrote Department Head and Professor Scott Miller. “He greatly exceeded the standards in our discipline for research and has converted his findings into publications, presentations at national meetings and more. His thesis was exceptional. He wrote a thorough, descriptive, detailed document that clearly articulated his work and is a contribution to his field.”

Outstanding Dissertation: Anh Nguyen, Department of Computer Science

“It is hard to imagine a more prolific and high-impact dissertation,” wrote Assistant Professor Jeff Clune, who supervised Nguyen’s Ph.D. study from 2014-17. “His dissertation research focused on understanding, explaining and improving an emerging type of artificial intelligence (AI) called ‘deep learning’ (now recognized as the most powerful form of AI). Anh’s dissertation research was highly impactful in our field, across scientific disciplines and in the general public via many popular press articles about his work.”

“This is the strongest dissertation I have seen in our department in my 15 years here,” added Professor John Hitchcock.

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