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Teaching assistant award winners encourage new perspectives on learning

The Center for Teaching Innovation (CTI) has selected doctoral students Giulia Andreoni and Vasilis Charisopoulos as recipients of the 2020-2021 Cornelia Ye Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award.

“Their commitment to mentoring and guiding their students beyond the classroom and engaging their students with the Cornell community to enhance learning is what stood out to the committee,” said Kim Kenyon, an associate director at the CTI and chair of the award selection committee.

Giulia Andreoni

Andreoni, from Rome, Italy, will receive her Ph.D. in Romance studies in the College of Arts and Sciences in May 2021. She has been a teaching assistant for a range of Italian courses at Cornell and instructor of record for several first-year writing seminars as well as the Languages Across the Curriculum program.

Andreoni uses many opportunities available across campus to help students connect with course material. For example, she worked with Irene Eibenstein-Alvisi, senior lecturer in Romance Studies, to have the Cornell Raptor Program give a presentation to help students understand falconry and its importance to the Decameron and Dante’s Inferno.

Of that presentation, Andreoni said, “It’s really a way to engage students and let them relate to a historical time.”

Andreoni also uses theater techniques to teach literature, writing, and Italian language. In one course, she asked students to adapt a story from the Decameron for the stage. They then had to perform a scene for the class.

“Theater is great for collaboration and to build community,” said Andreoni. “Also, it fosters empathy because you learn how to be in someone else's shoes; you change roles, you change perspectives.”

Vasilis Charisopoulos

Charisopoulos, who grew up in Greece, is studying the mathematics of data science in the School of Operations Research and Information Engineering in the College of Engineering. At Cornell, he has been a teaching assistant for several courses, and is currently instructor of record for a course on big data technologies. Throughout his teaching, ensuring access to learning has been important.

Charisopoulos found this to be especially true when he taught with the Cornell Prison Education Program.

“In prison, it’s just you and the textbook,” said Charisopoulos. “You’re really necessary there, to make sure learning happens. And you have to balance a very diverse set of backgrounds too.”

As an undergraduate student in Greece, Charisopoulos also worked with a program to ensure students of limited means had access to tutoring for university entrance exams.

“I’ve found that students are much more receptive to feedback, willing to collaborate and take academic risks when they feel welcome in the class and in office hours,” said Charisopoulos.

Mao Ye, Ph.D. ’11, established the Cornelia Ye Award in 2012 in honor of then-President David Skorton’s commitment to teaching. Ye named his daughter Cornelia, after Cornell, and the award after his daughter.

Each year, the award is given to two outstanding TAs, one domestic and one international, who have clearly demonstrated dedication and excellence in their teaching responsibilities. The award includes a certificate and $500.

This year’s Ye Award selection committee consisted of Larry Blume, Goldwin Smith Professor of Economics and professor of Information Science; Kelly Delp, senior lecturer and director of teaching assistant programs in Mathematics; Sri Lakshmi Sravani Devarakonda, fourth year PhD student in Nutritional Sciences and former recipient of the Cornelia Ye Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award; Lucy Du ’21, CTI undergraduate assistant, studying Statistics and Economics; Kim Kenyon, CTI associate director and selection committee facilitator; and Lucy Wang ’22, CTI undergraduate assistant, studying Information Science.

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