Nugent Named Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher

UMass Amherst doctoral student Joshua Nugent

Joshua Nugent

April 23, 2020

The School of Public Health and Health Sciences (SPHHS) is pleased to announce that Joshua Nugent, a doctoral student in the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, has been selected as the inaugural recipient of the SPHHS Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher Award. The award recognizes excellence in graduate student teaching.

The selection committee unanimously selected Nugent for the inaugural award, noting that his teaching philosophy thoughtfully addressed widespread math phobia, engagement in 200-student courses, and resource allocation between professors and teaching assistants. Fourteen students wrote in support of his nomination; they described Nugent as being well-regarded among undergraduate students for his teaching flexibility, skill, and “for being someone who made it worth waking up for a 9:00 a.m. class.”

“I was humbled by the kind words that my students had written about me in their supporting letters, and it was nice be recognized for the work,” says Nugent. “I think a lot of instructors think that teaching is just about 'clear lecturing,' which can certainly be a part of it, but there's a lot more to it than that, and it takes a lot of time and patience to do it well.”

Nugent has served as a teaching assistant for Intro to Biostatistics, taught by Biostatistics lecturer Scott Chasan-Taber, for the past four semesters. “It's been great working with Scott; he's a great teacher and we've gotten a good groove going after four semesters!”

Nugent’s role includes leading one lab session a week. He notes the session serves as a combination of conceptual review and applications of statistical procedures to datasets, in support of the larger course objectives.

“I think students learn best when actively engaging with the material, and while that's tough in many large undergraduate lecture class settings, there are ways to solicit engagement, check for understanding, and encourage active and critical thinking,” says Nugent. “I hope students acquire statistical skills, but also an appropriate sense of skepticism about statistics as they go forth into their academic lives.”