Carnegie Mellon University
May 19, 2022

Clinton Conley Receives Julius Ashkin Award

By Amy Laird

Jocelyn Duffy

The Julius Ashkin Award is presented to a faculty member who has shown unusual devotion and effectiveness in teaching undergraduate students.

Clinton Conley’s undergraduate courses are in such high demand that students will regularly go on waitlists to try to get into one of his classes, often pleading to be registered. It’s not hard to see why. He challenges students with interesting and difficult problems, and he brings out the best in them.

“By the time the lecture is over, I feel like my understanding of the concept was solid, and it didn’t seem that hard at all,” wrote a student in support of Conley’s nomination for the Julius Ashkin Award for Excellence in Teaching. “Teaching this beautiful and effective makes Carnegie Mellon the top-tier institution that it is.”

Conley, associate professor of mathematical sciences, has taught courses that span a wide range of the Mathematical Sciences catalog, successfully bringing his deep knowledge of set theory, logic, algebra and general mathematics to the classroom, inspiring students to think at the highest level. Fellow Julius Ashkin award winner Professor John Mackey wrote in support of Conley’s nomination: “While I have more teaching experience, I have learned a great deal from Clinton and continue to grow as an instructor through teaching alongside him.”

“What amazes me the most about his teaching is his creativity: while dealing with topics at incredibly high levels of abstraction, Professor Conley is able to find unique, effective and engaging ways to delineate and explain, using everything from sound effects, embarrassing anecdotes, cartoons and hand motions,” wrote a student.

Conley’s students and colleagues praise his lectures as meticulously prepared and delivered —with fantastic board work that is clean and easy to follow — and his office is frequently filled with undergraduate students.

“He not only teaches the material well, but he also provides abundant help and encouragement,” wrote one of his students. As a 2019 alumnus puts it: “I always felt that Professor Conley was committed to my success as a growing and well-rounded mathematician, and I still feel that way after graduation.”

Conley will receive the Julius Ashkin Award at the MCS Annual Meeting on May 26 and was recognized at the university’s Celebration of Education on April 28.