Cornell professors George Hudler, Ravi Ramakrishna and Yervant Terzian have been chosen for this year's Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellowships.
Established by the Cornell University Board of Trustees in 1992, Weiss fellowships recognize tenured faculty members who have "sustained records of effective, inspiring and distinguished teaching of undergraduate students and of contributions to undergraduate education." The award, named for former board chair Stephen H. Weiss '57, comes with $5,000 per year for five years, to be used for any university-related purpose.
Hudler, former chair of the Department of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, was especially recognized for his survey course Magical Mushrooms, Mischievous Molds, which "truly has become a marvel in Cornell's undergraduate program," the selection committee wrote. He has expanded the curriculum in recent years to include an optional laboratory/discussion to provide more hands-on experiences. Enrollment in the course now exceeds 500. Further, his advanced undergraduate course Pathology of Trees and Shrubs is "a masterpiece" and in some years earns the highest rating from every student enrolled, the committee said.
Beyond the classroom Hudler has served with distinction in undergraduate mentoring and university service. Students often commented that he was exceptionally available despite the large class sizes. For the past 10 years he has been faculty adviser for Delta Kappa Epsilon; prior to that service, he was a faculty fellow for Ecology House. "All these activities are a strong testament to Professor Hudler's exceptional dedication to the profession and to Cornell's academic excellence," the committee said.
Ramakrishna '88, a professor of mathematics in the College of Arts and Sciences, was cited for his "stellar performance" as a lecturer, including in classes required for non-majors. "This is a hard audience, and lighting sparks there bring great credit to Cornell … ," the committee said. His student ratings are consistently high, a record Ramakrishna has achieved while teaching 10 different courses over 10 years. When teaching large lectures, he voluntarily takes a recitation section to see what concepts are giving students trouble. When teaching freshmen, he holds evening office hours on North Campus. "Several students write that not only was he the best teacher they had during their years at Cornell, but that taking his courses changed their trajectories and determined a career in mathematics," his award letter reads.
Outside the classroom, Ramakrishna founded the Summer Mathematics Institute in 2006 to increase diversity in the profession. The department chair describes him as "the most dedicated, versatile and successful teacher that the Department of Mathematics at Cornell has ever had," the committee wrote.
Terzian, the Tisch Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences, was cited for his "altruism and genuine concern for the well-being of Cornell's undergraduates." Terzian developed and taught the introductory astronomy course The Nature of The Universe for 20 years to full houses of 400 students each fall semester. He evokes "comprehension and wonder" for the study of astronomy, his recommendation letter read.
Several graduate students mentioned how Terzian went out of his way to help students in need and was a valuable adviser in "important life decisions" later in their careers. Undergraduates praised his extracurricular efforts, especially in helping form the Armenian Students Organization. His one-on-one time and enthusiasm made him an "atypical and noteworthy" adviser, the committee wrote.
Formerly a department chair for 20 years, Terzian is director of the NASA New York State Space Grant Program, working with 24 academic institutions to support education and research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. "His lifetime of service to Cornell deserves to be recognized in the form of this highest award," the selection committee said.