Cornelia Ye award celebrates outstanding graduate achievements in teaching
By Carolyn Keller
The Center for Teaching Innovation (CTI) is pleased to announce that doctoral candidates Julia Nolte and Ewan Robinson are the 2022-23 recipients of the Cornelia Ye Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award.
Established in 2012 by Mao Ye, Ph.D. ’11, in honor of then-President David Skorton’s commitment to teaching, the award is given annually to two outstanding TAs, one domestic and one international, who have demonstrated dedication and excellence in their teaching responsibilities. The award is named after Ye’s daughter, Cornelia, who is named after Cornell.
This year, for the first time, both Mao and Cornelia Ye were on hand to present the award to Nolte and Robinson at the University-Wide GET SET Teaching Conference, held April 22. In 2022, Ye returned to Cornell as an associate professor of finance at the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business.
International recipient Julia Nolte is a Ph.D. candidate in psychology in the Healthy Aging Laboratory, College of Human Ecology (CHE). Nolte’s research engages with students both in the laboratory and online to investigate how information management, risk perception, and decision-making change over an adult lifespan.
In Fall 2022, after two years as a CTI Teaching Fellow, Nolte became the instructor of record for her own first-year writing seminar, HE1150 Aging and the Media.
"Designing a course made me appreciate how important it is to teach students rather than to teach content,” Nolte said. “Every freshman in my writing seminar enters Cornell with their own unique career goals, needs, and degree of preparedness. I level that playing field by equipping my students with skills that will also benefit them outside of my classroom, such as by introducing students to various note-taking techniques. In addition, I grant every student a certain number of absences, zoom passes, and extensions, so that they never have to choose between prioritizing their academic and their personal well-being.”
Nolte also contributed a chapter on the Cornell Note-Taking system to Teaching Gradually: Practical Pedagogy and Classroom Strategies for Graduate Students by Graduate Students, a volume uniquely tailored toward new instructors by peers with substantial teaching experience.
Domestic recipient Ewan Robinson is a Ph.D. candidate in Development Sociology in the Department of Global Development, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). In his research, Robinson uses ethnographic and participatory methods to study how rural Tanzanian women and men use documents, ecological management, and relational ethics to pursue rights to land and viable rural futures. Robinson collaborates with Tanzanian land rights organizations and community groups to produce contextualized knowledge and to advocate for just rural development policies.
“Getting to design and teach a first-year writing seminar has been a highlight of my time at Cornell,” Robinson said. “It’s a big challenge to teach writing not just as a list of techniques, but as a practice for expanding and deepening one’s thinking. But it’s also immensely rewarding to see students sharpen their ideas and develop their academic voices over a semester and beyond.”
The Cornelia Ye Award selection committee includes both faculty, staff, and graduate and undergraduate students, and the CTI does not weigh in on their selections. This year’s committee included Katherine Sender, professor of communication and director of graduate studies in the Department of Communication (CALS); Celia Evans, associate director of Engineering Learning Initiatives in Cornell Engineering; Jisoo Yuk, Ph.D. candidate in biological and environmental engineering (CALS); Brianna Marie Zgurich, Ph.D. student in philosophy, College of Arts & Sciences (A&S); and Sabrina Li ’24, a junior majoring in Engineering (Cornell Engineering).