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The Vijay Bhagavan Teaching Assistant of Distinction Award

Vijay Bhagavan was a graduate student in the Department of Resource Economics from 1992 to 1994 and an undergraduate at UMass before that. He was an outstanding student whose Master's thesis was published as “Concentration Change and Countervailing Power in the U.S. Food Manufacturing Industries” in 1996 by the Review of Industrial Organization. He was known for his generosity, his late nights at the office, and his unflagging good humor.

Vijay is remembered by faculty, his graduate student colleagues, and his undergraduate students for his effervescence and optimism. Times may have been hard, but never so difficult as to stifle his spontaneous roar of laughter or a comment of “No Problem”. After all, despite the petty tribulations of the day, life is good, isn’t it? Vijay traveled the hallways making everyone in his path feel better, providing a sense of perspective and a love of life.

These attributes made him the model Teaching Assistant. Vijay was equally passionate in his love for humanity in general, the New England Patriots, and virtually any individual he came in contact with. Imagine how fortunate the undergraduate, perhaps far from home for the first time, perhaps with troubles of her or his own to deal with, to have Vijay as a teacher. Vijay struggled early as an undergraduate, persevered, and became a model of strength as his confidence matured. He related to his students as individuals, could recognize the special problems they were sometimes having, and would help them both academically and spiritually.

Vijay was the greatest, and so are the Teaching Assistants of Distinction named in his memory. This award is endowed through the generosity of Vijay's parents, Anuradha and V.S. (Manny) Bhagavan, in memory of their beloved son. 

Give to the Resource Economics Department in Honor of Vijay Bhagavan

To make a contribution, call the Development Office at 866-450-UMASS or visit www.umass.edu/give to contribute online. Be sure to designate that your gift be allocated to the Vijay Bhagavan Memorial Award of Distinction in the Resource Economics Department.

(If giving onine, go to the Gift Options section and enter "Vijay Bhagavan Memorial Award of Distinction-- Resource Economics" in the Special Gift Instructions or Comments box.) Thank you!

The Vijay Bhagavan Teaching Assistant of Distinction Award Recipients

2015: Tyler Besse (MS Candidate). Tyler is a Massachusetts scholar from the Town of Lenox. Tyler earned his BS degree in Resource Economics and has completed all his requirements for the MS degree in Resource Economics. Tyler very quickly became an integral part of our efforts to redesign our large lecture introductory statistics course to a blended online/team-based learning (TBL) format. Tyler worked during the summer of 2014 organizing course materials and researching TBL methods. Tyler worked closely with the course instructors during fall 2014 to complete the redesign and took on the tasks of developing the course learning management system and creating a number of instructional videos for students on the use of Excel for data analysis. During summer 2015, Tyler accepted the additional responsibility of creating Online Web-based Learning exercises for the course. His important contributions have allowed all our teaching assistants to focus on helping students rather than grading in-class work and homework. Tyler completed his MS essay research on teaching and learning estimating the effects of different course components on student learning. Tyler was an important member of the team that took on redesigning how we teach statistics and was an indispensable member of our stats team accepting key organizational and administrative jobs. He has made important contributions to the Department’s teaching mission. We will always remember your dedication to the Department and commitment to our educational goals! Thanks Tyler, and congratulations!  

2015: Eric Koegler (MS Candidate). Eric is a Commonwealth scholar hailing from Littleton, Massachusetts. Eric has been with the Department for both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. He is currently completing his MS Thesis on solar energy working with Dr. Christine Crago. We have been incredibly fortunate to have Eric with us for these past 6 years. His keen intellect and command of statistics led us to employ him as an undergraduate teaching assistant while he was completing his BS degree. Eric was a shining star in small discussion section classrooms as indicated by his outstanding teaching evaluation. Students valued his incredible energy, his command of the topics and his commitment to the students. Eric took his teaching assistant positions seriously and does a fantastic job leading discussion sections and working with students one-on-one and in small groups. Eric took his responsibilities further and offered ideas to make the student experience better. He thinks about teaching and relates his teaching to his experiences as a student and his teaching can be made better. As a member of the stats redesign team his intellect and commitment brought much to the Department efforts and ensured success. Thanks Eric for your dedication as a TA to the Department’s work done and our students’ successes in the classroom. Thanks for your willingness to go well beyond what we expected making important contributions to our teaching methods. Congratulations!

2015: Kelly Miller (PhD Candidate). Kelly, from Rochester, NY, joined the Department after completing BA and MS degrees at Rochester Institute of Technology. With a BA in Economics and an MS in Environmental Studies, Kelly quickly became one of our top PhD scholars in the Department. Kelly is especially passionate about econometrics and statistics. She worked with us as a teaching assistant in our large lecture courses, teaching small discussion sections. Kelly has also worked with us to redesign our large lecture stats course through the summer of 2014 and fall 2015. She was an integral part of our team focusing on curriculum development and team activities for the classroom. Her previous experience teaching discussion sections gave her great insights into the intersection of course curriculum development and student learning. As a teaching assistant for our large lecture introductory statistics courses she earned excellent teaching evaluations. Students lauded her commitment to them and her understanding of difficult statistical concepts. They appreciated her willingness to work one-on-one with them to help them succeed. Watching Kelly work with students during office hours or during a team-based learning classroom activity, it is clear that she brings her keen understanding of the topics to the students and pushes them to learn with a kind and incredibly patient style. Kelly understanding of statistics made her a great candidate to teach her own section of introductory statistics, which she did during spring 2015.  Kelly was demanding of the students, required much of them through applications in computer labs and through a required term project. Her tireless efforts were appreciated by the students. They commended her ability to make the subject, one that they found difficult, fun and a good learning experience. Students commented that Kelly was approachable, cheerful, helpful, and caring. Thanks for your many contributions to our stats and now introductory microeconomics teaching! Congratulations!  

2014: Irene Mussio (PhD Candidate). Irene came to UMass from Universidad de la República Uruguay where she was a Research Assistant. Prior to that, Irene taught microeconomics and game theory at Universidad Catolica del Uruguay. Irene received her Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Universidad de la República Uruguay and her Master’s degree, also in Economics, from Universidad de Montevideo. Irene joined the department to pursue her PhD in environmental economics and experimental economics. She is conducting research with Dr. Angela de Oliveira on social networks and experimental economics. Her dissertation research will focus on social networks, the diffusion of information and environmental health.

Irene became a teaching assistant for our introductory statistics course when she arrived here and has worked on helping students appreciate the world of statistics and econometrics since that fall. When Brent Dickinson nominated Irene he wrote: “Her eye for detail, work ethic, and leadership maker her the ideal team member. She really held everything together for us this semester. I seek her advice and find her input valuable.” Brent used many other words in his glowing nomination including linchpin, indispensable, duct tape and WD40, emphasizing that these were compliments! Those of us who walk the halls of Stockbridge know well Irene’s appeal to the students. It is common to see her leading office hours with a host of students gathered around the tables. Irene is a tough, no nonsense instructor. She is the perfect recipient of the Vijay award in that she has the same “No BS attitude,” but has a heart of gold and a soft spot for the students. We’ll keep that last part a well-guarded secret – we need her to keep the students inline! Congratulations Irene! Thanks for your many contributions to the students and the Department.

2014: Elizabeth Hunter (MS Candidate). Elizabeth is a Massachusetts scholar from the wonderful little town of Shutesbury just east of Amherst. Elizabeth earned her Bachelor’s degree in Economics at the University of Massachusetts. Following that degree, she taught at the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia in Vashlovani, Georgia. Elizabeth joined us fall 2013 and is finishing her MS thesis research on consumer energy consumption responses to information and incentives. Never has an MS student worked so hard for data. Elizabeth scaled and dug through many great snow banks this past winter to get to the instruments that recorded electricity use. This summer she’ll present her research at regional and national conferences.

Elizabeth was a valued teaching assistant for our introductory microeconomics courses. Professor Nathalie Lavoie was effusive in her praise for Elizabeth’s efficiency and commitment to the course. Elizabeth attacked her duties with enthusiasm and invested heavily offering Nathalie comments and suggestions to encourage better student performances. Elizabeth searched websites and newspapers for new applications of the main concepts in the course that she would bring to illustrate microeconomics in our world. When grading out-of-class assignments like Micro Rocks (finding microeconomics in rock songs), Elizabeth would bring new and interesting finds to Nathalie to be used as classroom examples. Elizabeth’s understanding of the course material was so strong, she often looked for more challenging examples and applications to bring to the class. Elizabeth also used her experience and enthusiasm to develop an online version of the introductory microeconomics course. Elizabeth’s commitment to her work as a teaching assistant and her dedication to the students, and the Department, make her a perfect choice for the Vijay Teaching Assistant of Distinction Award. Elizabeth is truly a distinguished teaching assistant who brought great energy to her work. 

2013: Adam Baddeley (MSc Candidate). Adam originally hails from New Hampshire, but most recently lived in the Boston area.  Adam received his undergraduate degree from Bentley University in Economics and Finance.  After finishing his degree, Adam started working towards becoming a special education teacher and worked as a special education aide in public schools for several years before joining the MS program in fall 2012. Adam joined the Department with interests in natural resources and sustainability but has also become interested in the health industry and is currently working with Dr. Sheila Mammen.  

Adam became a teaching assistant for our introductory statistics course when he arrived here and has worked on helping students appreciate the world of statistics since that fall.  Adam has been a top TA from day 1.  He has been a constant force at evening office hours working tirelessly with students. When the Department was in need of additional help during fall 2013, Adam volunteered to take on additional discussions and hours.  This spring, he moved up to teach a section of the introductory statistics course in the Residential Academic Program. Adam clearly represents those characteristics we loved in Vijay.

2013: Francesca Colantuoni (PhD Candidate).  Francesca joined us from Napoli, Italy, in 2009 after completing her BS degree in Agricultural Sciences and Technology and her MS degree in Agricultural Economics and Policy in Italy. Upon joining our department, Francesca began studying toward a Ph.D. with a major field in Industrial Organization, and a minor field in Applied Econometrics. Francesca successfully defended her dissertation on April 9 and will leave the Department for a job with Ernst & Young in New York City this summer. Francesca is the 2012 Carolyn Harper Fellowship Recipient and has been a leading scholar in the Department. She has regularly participated in presenting papers at national conferences. During the time that she has been working on her research, she has regularly taught a Residential Academic Programs course on introductory microeconomics.  Francesca was among our top four instructors based on student evaluation scores this past fall for all Department undergraduate courses. Her efforts were recognized by students as she was honored with a Distinguished Teacher Award nomination. The DTA is the highest honor for teachers here at UMass and is a student-driven award. Her nomination reflects student appreciation for her efforts, and the Department is delighted to be able to recognize her dedication to teaching and service to the Department with a Vijay Bhagavan Award.

2012: Christopher Podkowka. Chris worked with Professor Nathalie Lavoie during the past two years as a TA for her junior/senior industrial organization course. In addition, Chris worked with Nathalie during January 2012 to improve the course. Chris handled the many grading components of the course including reading students homework papers, students’ writings about industrial organization articles they found in the Wall Street Journal and students’ exams. Chris also helped Nathalie run this large course (nearly 100 students) smoothly each day from trouble shooting computer technology and managing students’ use of their audience response clickers. Nathalie writes that Chris has been “… one of most dedicated, self-motivated, independent, and efficient TAs I’ve had. He is always in class 10 minutes before the start and I know I can count on him to set up the gazillion items of technology in time for class … regardless of how little time I give him …He always returns graded items faster than I would expect, and well done. This fall, after grading the midterm exam, he wrote down his thoughts on how to improve a returning question on the midterm exam, which I implemented this year. In January, he helped me streamline and organize a bank of homework questions, answer keys and grading keys. He is very much invested in the course, and has helped me focus more on the course content than its administration.  A plus for the students and for me.” Chris clearly exemplifies Vijay’s motto: “No problem!”

2011: Jonathan Farland and Scott Magnoni

2010: Christopher Burns and Bilal Janjua

2009: Brenton Sellati

2008: Linus Nyiwul

2007: Nikolaos Zirogiannis and Leah Shen

2006: Hillary Gelardi

2005: Chunxiang (Lisa) Li

2004: Michael Kruzewski

2003: Michael Salemme

2002: Sirisha Naidu

2001: Peter Manolakos

2000: Erin Mastrangelo and Sarah White

1999: Carlos Chavez-Rebolledo

1998: Juan Camilo Cardenas