Mark Pachucki and Kimberlee Pérez Win 2019 SBS Outstanding Teaching Awards
Mark Pachucki, assistant professor of sociology and Kimberlee Pérez, assistant professor of communication, have been awarded this year’s UMass Amherst College of Social & Behavioral Sciences (SBS) Outstanding Teaching Award. This award celebrates exceptional teaching, mentoring, and curriculum development efforts, and their impact on students.
“This year’s award celebrates two of our finest, as Mark and Kimberlee bring their unique and outstanding qualities not only to the classroom but to other interactions with students,” said John Hird, Dean of SBS.
"We’re proud to support their dedication and excellence in teaching, and to count them among the College’s best teachers,” he added.
Training the Next Generation of Social Scientists
Photo: Matt Medeiros
Mark Pachucki has developed and taught three undergraduate courses in the Sociology Department at UMass Amherst, including Social Forces, Health, and the Lifecourse; Food as Culture: Eating in Social Context; and Data Collection & Analysis (Social Research Methods). These courses complement Pachucki’s research on the social determinants of health, social network dynamics, and culture, and attract a wide range of students from multiple disciplines including Sociology, Psychological & Brain Sciences, Public Health, and Economics.
“I am usually shy and unwilling to speak up in smaller classes, but Professor Pachucki made me feel comfortable when it came to having my voice heard in class."
In addition to teaching, Pachucki greatly values mentorship, and is an active and highly impactful mentor to graduate and undergraduate students. “I see one of my primary roles as a faculty member as training the next generation of social scientists,” says Pachucki describing mentorship as one of the most rewarding aspects of his job. “To be able to learn with interested, engaged young adults and to help support them to be successful in their paths and see them explore new ideas is something that’s at the core of why I became an educator,” he added.
Pachucki's mentorship has made a significant impact on student experience. Several students expressed that he created “an open environment” for students to engage with him, and made a “special effort” to provide constructive and uplifting feedback. “I am usually shy and unwilling to speak up in smaller classes, but Professor Pachucki made me feel comfortable when it came to having my voice heard in class,” said one student.
Promoting Creative Expression, Introspection, and Connection
Since arriving at UMass Amherst in 2015, Kimberlee Pérez has developed and taught three new undergraduate courses that add depth and dimension to the Communication department’s curricular cluster area in Rhetoric and Performance Studies, including Performance and the Politics of Race, On Citizenships and Belongings; and Queer Performance and Publics. Pérez also teaches two courses at the graduate level. She was recognized in 2016-2017 for her teaching when she received the UMass LBGTQ+ Faculty and Staff Award from the Stonewall Center.
Upon learning that she received the outstanding teaching award, Pérez expressed that she was deeply moved to be recognized for teaching. “It means a great deal to teach in a college where there are so many skilled teachers with a commitment to what the social sciences can offer students and the world,” she added.
"Every class made me feel like we together were actively taking steps toward a better, more welcoming, and respectful society."
For Pérez, scholarship and engagement with the larger community and societal context are intertwined with teaching and learning, promoting agency, creative expression, introspection, and connection both inside and outside the classroom. “As an assistant professor, I embody multiculturalism in the classroom and university as a first-generation college student, and a queer Chicana,” says Pérez. Her courses that feature the intersections of race and queerness draw students of color and those students who are interested in learning about these issues, but who are not themselves queer or of color. At the graduate level, Pérez mentors the research of graduate students across multiple departments.
Students show clear, consistent, and deep appreciation for their experiences in her courses. “Every class made me feel like we together were actively taking steps toward a better, more welcoming, and respectful society,” said one student, while another noted that Pérez’s class felt like “a laboratory for ideas.”
Pachucki and Pérez will be recognized for their achievements at the Faculty Honors Dinner in April 2019 and at the SBS Senior Celebration in May 2019. Each will receive a commemorative plaque and an award of $1,000.
- By Mythreyi Krishnan, Director of Communications and External Affairs