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UW Office of Academic Affairs, Graduate Council Name 2020 Graduate Award Recipients

May 6, 2020
award winners

The University of Wyoming’s Office of Academic Affairs and the Graduate Council have selected the 2020 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.

The 2020 award winners are:

Distinguished Graduate Faculty Mentor: Professor Daniel Wall, Department of Molecular Biology

As a mentor, Wall is engaged and interested in projects of each of his graduate students and is always willing to help his students overcome experimental and conceptual hurdles, says Vera Troselj, postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Molecular Biology.

“He is excellent in gauging the extent of guidance each student needs, depending on their level of experience and independence. His office door is always open, and students who come with questions and problems leave with new helpful insights,” Troselj adds. “Dan has a rare ability to make complex concepts easily understandable and to communicate science in a clear and relatable manner, which makes his feedback on presentations and manuscripts invaluable.”

John P. Ellbogen Outstanding Graduate Assistant Teaching: Lauren Taylor Gordon, Dalton, Ga., Department of Visual and Literary Arts and Creative Writing Program

It takes energy and good instincts to lead juniors and seniors through complex transdisciplinary projects, says Professor Alyson Hagy in the Creative Writing Program.

“Taylor exhibits both. She designs focused, fresh in-class assignments. She advises students on the use of poetry and prose in their books,” Hagy says. “She engages the more shy and insecure students in conversation to boost their sense of belonging. And she exhibits boundless curiosity about the students themselves, their strengths as artists and their worries.”

John P. Ellbogen Outstanding Graduate Assistant Teaching: Gwen Hummel, Windsor, Colo., Department of Animal Science

Beyond student evaluations, Hummel uses an effective combination of traditional and novel methods of teaching, says Bledar Bisha, interim head of the Department of Animal Science.

“Gwen truly cares about the subject and the students, which makes her such an effective teacher,” Bisha says. “She has a very composed approach and demeanor and a down-to-earth approach, which students greatly appreciate.”

John P. Ellbogen Outstanding Graduate Assistant Teaching: Kalie Leonard, Kearney, Neb., Department of English

Leonard is a deserving candidate -- a strong and reliable teacher, as well as a valued colleague, says Michael Knievel, an associate professor in the Department of English.

“Kalie has distinguished herself as a teacher in her unique ability to marry her research and background with her pedagogy -- to the great benefit of her students,” Knievel says. “In her first year at UW, Kalie demonstrated an impressive ability to teach, manage her classroom and connect impressively with her students in English 1010, our first-year writing course.”

John P. Ellbogen Outstanding Graduate Assistant Teaching: Benjamin White, Boise, Idaho, Department of Economics

White’s career goal is to become a professor at a liberal arts teaching college, says David Aadland, an associate professor of economics and department chair.

“Ben’s passion is teaching, and he wants to become an outstanding teacher,” Aadland says. “He has told me several times that he loves teaching and wants to make a difference in students’ lives. I think he is well on his way.”

John P. Ellbogen Outstanding Graduate Assistant Teaching: Trent Wondra, Memphis, Tenn., Department of Psychology

Wondra has a true passion for teaching in the field of psychology, says Sean McCrea, a professor and chair of the Department of Psychology.

“Trent has considerable experience in the classroom, having previously served as a teaching assistant for a range of courses. I witnessed his ability to engage students firsthand in a guest lecture he gave in my

motivation course,” McCrea says. “Students were attentive and enthusiastic. He effectively incorporated large- and small-group discussions, examples and activities into his lecture. I was very impressed with how he connected with students and brought the course topics to life.”

Outstanding Master’s Thesis: Tayo Basquiat, North Dakota, Department of Visual and Literary Arts and Creative Writing Program, for “Life at Dead Ends”

“Life at Dead Ends” threads together wide-ranging oral histories -- real and imagined -- of the High Plains, says Andrew Fitch, an associate professor in the Department of Visual and Literary Arts.

“It pursues poignant personal investigations of long-dormant, gradually emergent, never fully settled or self-satisfied identity,” Fitch says. “It maps a contemporary economic landscape of both rural and urban job displacement, and of lived precarity. It contains the most poetic catalog of Third Street Safeway dumpster-diving that you will ever read.”

Outstanding Dissertation: Ellen Aikens, Kintnersville, Pa., Program in Ecology, Department of Zoology and Physiology, for “Surfing Green Waves of Forage: Evaluating the Causes and Consequences of Ungulate Migration”

Aikens will undoubtedly become one of the future leaders in animal movement ecology and conservation, say Kevin Monteith, an associate professor in the Department of Zoology and Physiology, and Matt Kauffman, unit leader in the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.

“In her dissertation, Ellen has put together an incredible and highly advanced body of work that would honestly rival the conceptual and intellectual impact of many early-career faculty -- and we see her dissertation worthy of being recognized as such,” Monteith and Kauffman say. “Ellen's line of inquiry explored realms of science that were truly novel and will undoubtedly be impactful in furthering our understanding of the potential consequences of environmental change for a critical biological phenomenon.”

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