Carnegie Mellon University
April 06, 2011

News Brief: Celebrating Graduate Students

Celebrating Graduate Students

Carnegie Mellon celebrates Graduate and Professional Student Appreciation Week April 4-8 in recognition of the contributions graduate students make to education, research and university life. The week kicked off with a free breakfast sponsored by the Dean of Student Affairs. Students are invited to enter the HUB's "Plaid Grads" prize giveaway, attend free health and wellness programs and visit the MFA thesis exhibition "Up Down Up Down" at the Miller Gallery.

The Innovation with Impact research exhibition begins at 4 p.m., Thursday April 7 in the University Center's Rangos Ballroom. At 5 p.m, the following Graduate Student Teaching and Graduate Student Service award winners will be recognized.

Hilary Franklin

Graduate Student Teaching Award

When Hilary Franklin, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English, arrived at CMU in 2006, she had never taught a class before.  Four short years later, she is the winner of the 2011 Graduate Student Teaching Award.

"Hilary is not only the best English 101 teacher to have emerged in recent years; she is a teaching mentor and leader across the university from the Eberly Center, to our Qatar Campus, to our Masters in Professional Writing Program and in a variety of courses in the English department," wrote Kathy M. Newman, associate professor of English and director of the department's graduate studies.

Franklin is known for creating a welcoming atmosphere in the classroom and for being enthusiastic, flexible and creative in designing curricula.  For these reasons, Karen Schnakenberg, teaching professor of rhetoric and writing and director of professional and technical writing, tapped Franklin to be her assistant director. 

"Hilary is a dedicated, innovative and very effective teacher whose pedagogy is informed both by her scholarship and research and a strong understanding of how to build and deliver a well-structured course, and, importantly, how to explain that structure and its implications for both students and other instructors," wrote Schnakenberg.

Thirty-two of Franklin's former students also submitted letters supporting her nomination.  Senior Yiwen Jia wrote, "One of the best points of being in Hilary's class is that she always encouraged active class participation and discussion.  As an avid listener, I loved hearing from my classmates on their different opinions and beliefs, because their input also contributed to my own learning and understanding of the course material."

Franklin, thrilled at winning the award, credits Schnakenberg and Danielle Wetzel, assistant teaching professor of English, for molding her into the teacher she is today.

"Danielle was a resource from the get-go, always ready for anything, and Karen opened my eyes to research on the best way to teach," said Franklin.  "My goal in the classroom is to always make it a place where everyone feels comfortable talking and to always explain to students why the assignments are important."

Michael Klipper

Honorable Mention, Graduate Student Teaching Award

Teaching adds up for Michael Klipper, a doctoral student in the Department of Mathematical Sciences.
Klipper's first experience as a teaching assistant (TA) took place in 2002, when he was as an undergraduate student studying mathematics and computer science. Since then, he has been a TA for a wide variety of courses including Differential Equations and Approximation, Concepts of Mathematics, Differential and Integral Calculus, Integration and Differential Equations, Analysis I and Analysis II.

Klipper recently became a primary instructor for courses in the fall and spring semesters, an opportunity mathematical sciences graduate students typically receive only in the summer. In addition, he has taught high school students attending Carnegie Mellon's Summer Academy for Mathematics and Science.

"Michael is an extremely talented expositor, and he cares very deeply about teaching mathematics," said William Hrusa, professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Mathematical Sciences. "I attended one of his lectures last fall, and it was a wonderful experience. The students were incredibly engaged."

As part of his requirements for the Doctor of Arts program, Klipper wrote a textbook for a yearlong analysis course aimed at first-year students with strong mathematical backgrounds.

"The Doctorate of Arts program in Mathematics is a wonderful program for developing serious teaching skill, and few universities offer anything like it," Klipper said. " By writing your own textbook, you learn to appreciate how difficult it can be to make smooth transitions between topics."

Students and faculty have given the textbook-and Klipper's approach to teaching -positive reviews.

"When I go to office hours, I don't just get help with the homework-often he'll start talking about some obscure formula related to what we're doing, or different applications of more advanced math," said one of Klipper's current Analysis II students. "I find these discussions really interesting. If teachers are able to make students more interested in the subject, to make them curious and ask questions and want to learn more, I think they have accomplished exactly what teaching should do."

Omar De Leon

Graduate Student Service Award

Civil and environmental engineering (CEE) student Omar De Leon is passionate about service to Carnegie Mellon and his professional field.

"Every new master's student enters my office with excitement and wide-eyed enthusiasm to be successful in this rigorous environment," said Maxine Leffard, CEE graduate program director. "Most are focused on navigating the system, making new friends and leaving the program with a degree and a good job. Of course most of our students want to make an impact in their world, but this drive is not typically evident at such an early stage in the program. But with Omar, it was different."

De Leon serves on the CEE Graduate Student Advisory Committee and has been instrumental in the planning and execution of events. Outside the department he is serving on the Foreign Student Advisory Committee for the Office of International Education. He is CEE's representative to the Graduate Student Assembly, where he holds the office of vice president of external affairs and serves as a liaison to the Green Practices Committee. De Leon represents Carnegie Mellon graduate students on the Pittsburgh Student Government Council.

De Leon also is the national graduate representative for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers' national board of directors. In this role, he has revamped the SHPE graduate student newsletter, which he uses as a tool to connect graduate students with information on fellowships, opportunities in industry and academia, and events.  He also initiated the first graduate student meeting at SHPE's national conference. More than 200 students attended the event.

SHPE Chief Executive Officer Pilar Montoya said, "I come across many individuals who play leadership roles with our organization. I can say without any hesitation that Omar de Leon is one of our most exemplary leaders."

De Leon finds both satisfaction and honor in serving others.

"Whether through SHPE, GSA, or other avenues, I believe it is important to find those things that you are passionate about, and work hard for them; in time, everything else will come," De Leon said.

Shilo Raube and Abby Houck