Cornelia Ye Award recognizes teaching assistants Aguillon, Natarajan

By: Daniel Aloi,  Cornell Chronicle
February 2, 2018

Graduate teaching assistants Stepfanie Aguillon and Aravind Natarajan have received the 2017-18 Cornelia Ye Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award.

The awards were presented by Julia Thom-Levy, vice provost for academic innovation, Jan. 22 at the Eighth Annual Celebration of Teaching Excellence hosted by the Center for Teaching Innovation (CTI).

“Stepfanie and Aravind exemplify great teaching at Cornell,” said Kimberly Kenyon, associate director of CTI. “Glowing comments from their student evaluations and letters of support from faculty and students attest to their passion for and commitment to excellence in teaching.”

Aguillon, an Arizona native, is a doctoral candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology. She has worked with undergraduates as a teaching assistant in Evolutionary Biology and Diversity, one of the courses in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Active Learning Initiative. For multiple semesters she has also taught a freshman writing seminar, History, Literature and Science of the Galápagos Islands.

Her interest in teaching also extends to her research. Aguillon and a fellow graduate student developed a research project to examine gender participation in the STEM active learning classroom as part of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Program at the Graduate School’s Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning. The collaborators presented their results at the Teaching as Research National Conference, held last June at Cornell. They plan to publish their research after collecting more data.

Natarajan is from India, and is a doctoral candidate in microbiology and a graduate teaching fellow in the College of Engineering. He has worked with undergraduates as a teaching assistant in courses such as Advanced Microbiology Laboratory, Practice of Chemical Engineering Project Design and Introduction to Bimolecular Engineering, and as a Tamil language instructor. He also has worked to support other teaching assistants as a TA development consultant in Engineering Learning Initiatives, and leads TA trainings in engineering.

“Outstanding, amazing, exceptional, hard-working, skillful, enthusiastic, dedicated, self-motivated and committed. These are just a few of the words used to describe Stepfanie and Aravind as teachers at Cornell,” Kenyon said. “We thank them for their contributions and congratulate them.”

The Cornelia Ye Award was established in 2012 by Mao Ye, Ph.D. ’11. Named for his daughter, Cornelia, the award was created in recognition of then-President David Skorton’s commitment to teaching.

Each year, the award recognizes two outstanding TAs, one domestic and one international, who have demonstrated excellence and dedication in their instructional responsibilities. The award includes a certificate and $500.

The Ye Award review committee includes Ron Harris-Warrick, the William T. Keeton Professor of Biological Sciences and a Menschel Distinguished Teaching Fellow; Sara Xayarath Hernandez, Graduate School associate dean; Sarah Cohn-Manik ’19, a student in the College of Arts and Sciences; Samantha Nirenberg ’18, a student in the College of Engineering; and Wayne Uy, a graduate student in applied mathematics and a previous Cornelia Ye Award recipient.

This story also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

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