Four Princeton University faculty members received the President’s Distinguished Teaching Awards during launch ceremonies on Tuesday, May 24.
They are Anne ChenProfessor of English; Lauren Coyle Rosenassistant professor of anthropology; Pierre RamadgeProfessor of Engineering Gordon YS Wu at Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; and Matt Weinbergassistant professor of computing.
The awards were established in 1990 through a donation from Princeton alumni Lloyd Cotsen of the Class of 1950 and John Sherrerd of the Class of 1952 to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching by faculty members at Princeton. Each winner receives a cash prize of $5,000 and their departments each receive $3,000 to purchase new books.
A committee of professors, academic administrators, undergraduates and graduate students selected the winners from nominations from students, fellow faculty and alumni.
Member of the faculty since 2006, Cheng is an interdisciplinary and comparative race scholar who focuses on the intersection between politics and aesthetics, drawing from literary theory, race and gender studies, film and architectural theory, legal studies, psychoanalysis and critical food studies. She is a member of the Princeton class of 1985.
Cheng, who played an integral role in the design of Princeton’s Asian American Studies curriculum, is known for the innovative and varied resources from which she draws for her courses. “His classes were the most inventive and engaging seminars I’ve taken at Princeton, and their scope and focus broadened my sense of what literary studies could be,” said a former student who is now earning a Ph.D. He described his teaching style as “endlessly creative and intellectually playful”.
A former student who is now an English teacher remarked on her ability “to create space – intellectual, physical and digital – for students to critically engage with scholarly issues through creative means.”
A colleague noted that “she is able to teach popular topics without compromising her belief that students thrive when confronted with materials that require rigorous and sustained conceptual engagement.”
Drawing on topics as diverse as food, art, film, pop culture and court rulings, “She helped us see that literature is never produced in a vacuum, that the history of race, of our understanding of the psyche and of our concept of nation can and should be thought of together,” said one. student.
Lauren Coyle Rosen
Coyle Rosen research and teaching interests lie at the intersections of legal and political anthropology, comparative religion and spirituality, aesthetics and consciousness, subjectivity and epistemology and theory critical.
Since By joining the faculty in 2016, she has engaged students in the classroom in a way they find challenging and rewarding. “Professor Coyle has a magical way of extracting impact from every text we read,” said one student. She challenged the class “to read deeply into the intentions and mindset of ethnographers” and to explore whether “the ways, methods, and ethical stances they took would be the same as ours.”
“In addition to being an exceptional listener, Lauren is adept at offering practical and constructive advice that enables students to push the boundaries of their established thought processes and grow as scholars, community members and human beings. “said a former student with a doctorate. D.
“A lot of what I love about anthropology comes from my lessons with Professor Coyle,” said one former student. “I attribute much of my success as a student in the Department of Anthropology to the wisdom and guidance of Professor Coyle, and I cannot think of her more highly as an educator, voice of inspiration and intellectual power.”
Colleagues and students have noted that the combination of his law degree and Ph.D. provided valuable expertise. A colleague noted that she helps students “cultivate an ethic of curiosity and create critical tools to engage our worlds on edge – always with an eye to the plight of vulnerable communities and just horizons.”
The detailed lecture notes that Ramadge distributes each week are legendary. They have proven to be essential to the many students who have taken his courses over the years since Ramadge, whose scholarship focuses on signal processing and machine learning, joined the faculty in 1984.
“The level of preparation and care he puts into his lectures is unparalleled,” said one graduate student. It makes the material “accessible to all students, yet interesting and engaging at the deepest levels”. Another agreed: “Professor Ramadge has an extraordinary ability to break down technical material in an easy to understand way.”
An undergraduate student with a casual interest in machine learning took Ramadge’s course and found it to be “one of the most mathematically rigorous and conceptually challenging courses I’ve taken in my career at Princeton. Nonetheless, he ended up liking the challenge and chose to write his thesis on the subject, with Ramadge as his advisor.
Ramadge is also known to revise its course materials frequently. “Peter never stops improving the class,” said one of his graduate students, who, when he was a teaching assistant, found that Ramadge had made teaching “effortless.” Peter has been one of my biggest teaching inspirations.
A counselor pursuing a Ph.D. was grateful for his incisive comments. “He spends a huge amount of time reading my drafts and comes up with crystal clear writing,” he said. The long journey to graduate school “would not have been possible without the support of my advisor, Professor Peter J. Ramadge.
Weinberg’s dedication to undergraduate students is evident in the number he has advised on thesis work or semester-long projects: more than 60 in just five years since he joined the Department of computing in 2017, well outside the norm. Weinberg, whose scholarship focuses on designing algorithmic mechanisms, is equally committed to mentoring his graduate students, who revel in his generosity of his time and dedication to helping them develop as researchers.
“Matt is a phenomenal advisor: invested in his students, enthusiastic about their work, and understanding of their struggles and their lives,” said one undergrad. “When explaining concepts that I had trouble understanding, Matt tried to explain in a couple of ways – sometimes by drawing pictures, sometimes by giving examples of toys, sometimes by writing down the mathematical formulation.”
Many students commented that Weinberg helped them develop a positive attitude toward their work. A graduate student said he taught him to view the unsuccessful conclusion of a project “not as a personal failure, but as a direction for future research”.
A former student spoke about her decision to take on a thesis project, even though it wasn’t required for her major, because she was so excited to work with Weinberg. Their meetings often ran overtime so he could continue to offer advice. “He rushed me for last-minute meetings when I felt stuck and lost,” she said. “I’m forever grateful for everything Matt has given me.”