Department of Anthropology
Recipient, Faculty Award for Outstanding Mentorship of GSIs

Background of the Award
Excerpts from the GSIs’ Nomination Letters

Background of the Award

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, sponsored by the Graduate Council’s Advisory Committee for GSI Affairs and the GSI Teaching & Resource Center, is presented as a surprise in the faculty member’s classroom, with the GSIs and other departmental faculty and staff present.

Sabrina Agarwal of Anthropology is one of the four faculty members who received the award in April 2015. Rosemary Joyce, fellow professor of anthropology and Associate Dean of the Graduate Division, presented the award plaque.

The excerpts below reflect mentoring activities that the GSI found especially effective.

Excerpts from the GSIs’ Nomination Letters

Sabrina’s GSIs commented on the effectiveness of Sabrina’s mentorship in teaching Anthro 1:

At our first teaching team meeting Sabrina articulated the course pedagogy and why her teaching methods and assessment measures are different than other courses we may have previously taught, and she explained the rational behind her approach to teaching and student learning within Anthro 1. This explicit statement created a new dynamic between the professor and GSIs, opening up dialogues within the teaching team. This also empowered the GSIs since they were then aware of the underlying structure and meaning behind the deliberate course design.
Our weekly GSI meetings not only aided GSIs in the usual areas of mastering the course content and tackling grading and other student issues, but often involved problem solving discussions and critical opportunities for us as GSIs to discuss our own ideas about teaching with Sabrina. When any issues arose GSIs were comfortable talking to our whole team about them and indeed these became valuable moments for us all to reflect and act towards positive outcomes.

GSIs also commented on the learning that took place in Anthro 375, the pedagogy course taught by Sabrina:

Sabrina … facilitates personal and professional growth of the first-time GSIs who populate the course. Sabrina’s skillful navigation of the hiccups, joys, and logistics of teaching undergraduates at UC Berkeley puts graduate student teachers at ease. Her expert advice and guidance helps to build GSI confidence and enthusiasm as educators — a state-of-mind essential for any graduate student preparing for a career in higher education.
Her emphasis on self-reflective teaching was manifest in a workshop-day on creating, administering, and understanding midterm reviews that would generate helpful and constructive data from students on our teaching. Many graduate students were nervous and excited to solicit feedback from their own students, and Sabrina’s guidance through the sometimes confusing, constructive, and off-point comments given by undergraduate students reassured us.
Our seminar group became a sacred space where graduate students could voice their opinions openly and receive valuable feedback both from the other students and from Sabrina, who used her years of experience to help nuance and enrich our discussions.

Finally, Sabrina’s GSIs conclude by saying:

The training that I have received from Sabrina has been incredibly valuable in preparing me to undertake this work [of designing course syllabi] and I can see the influences of her own teaching philosophies on my ideas about how to structure a course to maximize student learning.
Sabrina is an excellent mentor, that is undeniable, but more importantly she models her excellence in mentorship in ways that are achievable and encouraging for graduate students, rather than intimidating.