Department of History of Art
Recipient, Faculty Award for Outstanding Mentorship of GSIs
Each spring graduate students are invited to nominate faculty members for the Faculty Award for Outstanding Mentorship of GSIs. Typically each nomination is supported by several GSIs who have worked with the honoree. The award is sponsored by the Graduate Council’s Advisory Committee for GSI Affairs and the GSI Teaching & Resource Center.
Few activities of a faculty member are as rewarding as helping eager graduate students become proficient teachers. I tell them that their goal is simple — to do everything in their power to encourage the curiosity, competence, and confidence of their undergraduate charges. Believing that students learn and remember better when they participate actively in their learning, I work with GSIs to devise classroom exercises for their section meetings (such as debates about warring scholarly positions) that sharpen analytical skills. We also design mini-field trips that use resources all over campus, introducing undergraduates, for instance, to rare eighteenth-century books, nineteenth-century photographs and manuscripts, and twentieth-century architectural plans in Bancroft Library and the Environmental Design Library and Documents collection to give them an appetite for research based on primary sources. We also use the campus to teach architectural features, and for scavenger hunts where, for instance, in the American Forest class, students find and identify tree species as well as sample slabs of those species in the hallways of Mulford Hall, and then find them again in floors, cabinets, and paneling in campus buildings.
We take students to Yosemite and send them out in teams to discover the sites of nineteenth-century paintings of the valley and to analyze the aesthetic process of the artist as well as the ecological shifts in the landscape over the last century. We teach them how to do field observations, take oral histories, analyze poems, paintings, and urban space, as well as critically read scholarship in art and architectural history. And we work hard with the students on writing and reasoning skills, asking for weekly exercises, as well as well-crafted, persuasively-argued, meticulously-documented original research essays, a priority that involves GSI-led workshops on research strategies. Our goal is to give students a sturdy toolbox of analysis, to pique their curiosity, enlarge their sense of competence, and fortify their confidence in their own skills. The GSIs implement these varied and far-ranging exercises, and, in their dual roles as coach and evaluator, learn how learning works.