Carnegie Mellon University

Grad Student Week


Grad Student Week

Carnegie Mellon Celebrates Graduate Student Appreciation Week, April 5-9

Graduate students will take center stage during Graduate Student Appreciation Week April 5-9, when Carnegie Mellon celebrates the contributions graduate students make to education, research and university life. The week includes an exhibition of graduate student work and an awards ceremony on April 8, when this year’s Graduate Student Teaching and Graduate Student Service award winners will be recognized.  Several students also will be honored for their research. Here’s a look at this year’s recipients.

Jantzen Earns Graduate Student Teaching Award

Ben JantzenBenjamin Jantzen is a rising star. The fifth-year Ph.D. student in the Philosophy Department is this year’s winner of the Graduate Student Teaching Award.

Jantzen is known as an exceptional talent by students and faculty alike. He’ so good, in fact, that he could pass for a full-time professor.

“Professor Jantzen was a truly energetic and enthusiastic professor, and I feel that he would … be a valuable asset to Carnegie Mellon as a full-time professor if he isn’t one already,” wrote student Spiro Karoubalis in support of his nomination.

“While it could have been a class of long boring lectures and reflections, Professor Jantzen did an excellent job of keeping it upbeat and interesting,” Karoubalis added. “The way he presented and explained the material kept the attention of the class, and he encouraged class participation and discussion.  Even when concepts were hard to understand and there were those awkward silent moments, he wouldn’t give up and he worked through it …  I do recall that his lectures were always well prepared and he is a great presenter.”

Associate Teaching Professor Mara Harrell, director of Graduate Student Teaching and Undergraduate Studies for the Philosophy Department, said Jantzen is a gem.

“Ben is by far the best graduate student teaching assistant/instructor we have ever had,” Harrell wrote in her nominating letter. She noted his “extraordinary ability and dedication to teaching, his imaginative use of teaching methods, his concern for the individual student, and his ability to keep learning both stimulating and enjoyable for his students.”

Jantzen has been a teaching assistant for eight different courses and has taught four courses on his own. He’s even taught a course he created himself. His course is titled “Life, the Universe and God: The Argument from Design.”

“Ben is entirely atypical among the graduate students we have had the pleasure to work with,” Harrell wrote. “We have never before had a student design and teach his own course during a regular semester, much less a student in conversations with publishers about turning his course materials into a textbook. He is simply more naturally dedicated to teaching, and has more natural ability than any we have ever had. … All in all, he is a remarkable individual with truly wonderful dedication to teaching.”

Alumni University Professor of Philosophy Clark Glymour, whom Jantzen most recently served as a teaching assistant for the class  “Scientific Revolutions,” was very impressed with his abilities, to say the least. 

“He was easily the best TA I’ve ever had and probably the best I ever will,” Glymour wrote in a supporting letter.

In addition to Jantzen, graduate students Daniel Guinn Baumgardt of the Department of English and Shuai Li of the Department of Modern Languages also will be honored for their teaching. Baumgardt and Li will receive honorable mention awards.

Ellis’ Efforts Recognized With Graduate Student Service Award

Chad EllisChad Ellis, a Ph.D. candidate in the Chemistry Department who served as the 2009 Vice President of External Affairs for CMU’s Graduate Student Assembly, is this year’s recipient of the Graduate Student Service Award. He is being recognized for his service to his fellow students at Carnegie Mellon, and to his colleagues around Pittsburgh and the nation.

In a letter nominating Ellis for the award, Rea Freeland, associate dean of the Mellon College of Science and associate head of the Chemistry Department, said Ellis sets an “outstanding example” for how one graduate student can make an impact.

On the national level, Ellis has been a leader in helping to mitigate the visa problems that many international graduate students are facing today. He crafted an eloquent argument stating the case that international graduate students contribute to the United States’ intellectual capacity, generating new ideas and new innovations that help the nation compete globally. He took his case to the U.S. Congress, where he met with legislators, including Representative Jason Altmire.

“Because Chad is a person of broad political interest and awareness, he was able not only to see visa struggles through the eyes of international student colleagues, but to organize arguments for their case professionally and persuasively,” Freeland said. “This work represented Carnegie Mellon extremely well to our Congressional representatives.”

Locally, he was out in front leading the fight against Pittsburgh’s proposed tuition tax.

“He was the first student leader in Pittsburgh to start contacting city officials,” said Daniel Jimenez, president of the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate & Professional Student Assembly. “Within a week he had galvanized the support of the CMU graduate students and the CMU undergraduate Student Senate, which quickly spread to every university in the city. Almost immediately following the mayor’s announcement, he issued a survey of the graduate student population at CMU providing the first, most immediate, data on Pittsburgh students.”

Freeland said the data that Ellis compiled “is an excellent example of using data to serve the needs of a large community of students who might otherwise have been misunderstood.”

Freeland also praised Ellis for his commitment to the university community through his participation in Graduate Student Orientation, the Graduate Programs Office and the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence. She also noted his involvement in the “Big Questions” program, which engages undergraduate students in structured discussions related to the meaning of life.

“In my 17 years of working with graduate students in many departments at Carnegie Mellon, including several past student leaders, I have never met anyone with such breadth of commitment to the Carnegie Mellon community in particular and to serving the broader society as a whole,” Freeland said.

Earning honorable mention honors for graduate student service is Ayorkor Korsah, a   Ph.D. student in the Robotics Institute.

“Where in the World” Research Awards To Be Presented

In addition to the Graduate Student Teaching and Service awards, three graduate students will be honored April 8 as winners of a competition titled “Where in the World?" Global Impacts of Research.” The competition is part of the “Innovation with Impact Cross Disciplinary Exhibition of Graduate Student Work.”

Rebecaa Mayer of the Engineering and Public Policy (EPP) Department will receive an award for her work in the Environmental and Economic Sustainability category. Her project is called “Alternative Energy Options for Cellular Base Stations in Nigeria.”

Jon Kowalski of EPP will be recognized in the Creativity, Innovation, and Technology category for his work, “Spillovers through Spinoffs?  Insights from the US Semiconductor Industry.”

Lini Fu, a student in the Heinz College’s Master of Public Policy and Management, will be honored in the “International Relations and Cross-Cultural Communication” category. Her project is titled “Domestic Interests and Foreign Aid.”

Bruce Gerson