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Honors and Awards

2023-24 Faculty Distinguished Teaching Award Winners Announced

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The Center for Teaching and Learning has announced the recipients of the 2023-24 Faculty Distinguished Teaching Awards. Since 1961, the University of Massachusetts has presented the Distinguished Teaching Award to instructors who demonstrate exemplary teaching at the highest institutional level. This highly competitive and prestigious campus-wide honor is the only student-initiated award on campus. This year’s review committees, comprised of former Distinguished Teaching Award winners, noted particularly how difficult their task was given the excellence of the nominees and how exceptional these award winners are.

Michel Boucher

Senior Lecturer, University Without Walls Department of Interdisciplinary Studies
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Mitch Julian Boucher
Michel Boucher

Michel Boucher teaches courses in the UWW core curriculum, where he teaches and advises non-traditional students who are often the first in their families to attend college and many have faced economic, social or health barriers to completing their degrees. His courses explore the foundations of social justice advocacy, women, gender and sexuality studies, and writing. 

Boucher is also one of the founding members of the Social Justice Residency program, which brings UWW Interdisciplinary Studies students together to explore social justice issues in community in a short intensive course.

Across his many roles, he seeks to center students’ own knowledge and agency “to create conditions out of which students’ own intrinsic drives toward meaning can emerge and blossom as scholastic questions.” He does this through creating multiple ways for students to engage with course materials, with him as the instructor, and with each other.

Noting how he brings a human element to his online courses, students shared that “his weekly videos made it a personal experience that I could count on” and “I felt as if I was in the room with the professor.”  As one student noted, Boucher is “a very patient and supportive teacher in a way that made us step into our intelligence, capabilities, and joyful learning with strength and confidence.”

Adena Calden

Senior Lecturer II, Mathematics and Statistics
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Adena Calden
Adena Calden

Adena Calden is a past recipient of the College of Natural Sciences Outstanding Teaching Award, the Residential First Year Experience Award and the Student Choice Award. She has also been a fellow in the CTL Teaching for Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (TIDE) program, IMPACT, Innovate and Team-Based Learning programs. 

Calden teaches large lecture calculus classes for students in management and life sciences and smaller courses, including Junior Year Writing, and developed the first University Without Walls courses in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. In her teaching, she focuses on fostering her students’ problem-solving skills through providing relevant examples and building their confidence in a supportive classroom community.

“Mathematics often comes with a lot of expectations, emotions, and power, but anyone can become a better problem solver and mathematics is simply a tool to support this,” Calden says.  In particular, she guides students to develop their mathematical intuition through modelling her own thinking and encouraging students to practice with their peers.

One student shared that Calden worked to create “an atmosphere of play and exploration, which she cultivated through multidisciplinary readings, discussions, and the dedication of multiple class periods to solving mathematical problems collaboratively.” As another student noted, her teaching approach made clear “that their exploratory ideas would be embraced rather than dismissed.”

Wei Fan

Ed Price Endowed Professor of Chemical Engineering
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NEWS Wei Fan
Wei Fan

Wei Fan is an iCons Teaching Fellow and past recipient of the College of Engineering Outstanding Teaching Award. He teaches classes across the graduate and undergraduate curriculum on thermodynamics and chemical reaction engineering.

In his teaching, he focuses on developing students’ interdisciplinary problem-solving skills to help them prepare to tackle the complex issues that have emerged at the intersection of engineering, medicine, and policy in their future careers. To do this, he incorporates assignments that require self-reflection and peer-reflection in addition to other student-centered teaching methods such as low-stakes concept quizzes into his courses.

In both his teaching and advising, students noted Fan’s ability make sure students across different background felt supported. As one student shared, “whether through hands-on experiments, interactive discussions, or multimedia presentations, Professor Fan tailors his teaching approach to cater to the unique preferences and abilities of each student.” Another student noted that this “genuine approach allowed him to effectively teach students from diverse backgrounds and cultures, serving as a strong example of how professors should engage with their students.”

David Schmidt

Professor, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering
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David Schmidt
David Schmidt

David Schmidt is a past winner of the Student-selected Mechanical Engineering Instructor of the Year Award and a winner of the College of Engineering Outstanding Teaching Award. He teaches a range of undergraduate and graduate courses including first-year courses, large upper-division courses and a senior capstone course.

In his teaching, Schmidt creates multiple opportunities for students to participate and engage with course material, whether through informal polling in class, using whistling to help students remember connections between concepts, or through building in a section on global warming to connect the concepts of heat transfer to real world challenges. Through these efforts, “he always made it a true joy to come to class and had the special ability to make a large lecture hall feel like a small discussion session,” one student shared. 

Schmidt also notes the importance of connecting with students in office hours or even on short walks across campus to “foster a sense that all students are deserving of my attention and support.” One student shared that when he needed guidance “Professor Schmidt chose to give me the opportunity to accept assistance while also allowing me a safe place to learn on my own.”

Malcolm Sen

Associate Professor, English
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Malcolm Sen
Malcolm Sen

Malcolm Sen is a past recipient of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts Outstanding Teacher Award, a former Lilly Teaching Fellow and a Sustainability Curriculum team member. He teaches courses on postcolonial studies and the literature of environmental change and the climate crisis. He is also the founding member of the UMass Environmental Humanities Initiative, and Director of the Specialization in Environmental Humanities in the English Department.

Across these areas, Sen centers the importance of humanistic approaches to grappling with climate change that focus on the role of history, narrative, race, culture and gender in our understandings of the current moment. He notes that “my teacher-scholar mission is to prepare resilient and resourceful students for a future which they, rather than I, will inhabit.”  In this way, Sen uses discussions and collaborative learning practices to build students’ interdisciplinary critical thinking. 

As one student described, “Professor Sen shepherds and fields conversations between and among the disciplines, rather than bringing a diverse array of students into the classroom and funneling them into a specific way of learning and knowing.” 

Through Sen’s courses, students came to reflect on how “what is discussed in the classroom is not an isolated event; our thoughts and observations bear weight in the larger ecosystem of the world,” as another student shared.