Hayes and Johnson win graduate, professional teaching prize

Two professors have won Cornell’s highest honor for teaching and academic advising in programs that lead to an advanced degree.

Galina Hayes, associate professor of surgery at the College of Veterinary Medicine, and Sheri L. Johnson, the James and Mark Flanagan Professor of Law at Cornell Law School, have each been honored with the Provost Award for Teaching Excellence in Graduate and Professional Degree Programs.

“These professors have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to educating graduate and professional students with creativity and innovation,” said Provost Michael I. Kotlikoff. “Their meaningful contributions enrich our students’ academic lives and reverberate long after the students graduate from Cornell. We are grateful for their outstanding efforts.”

As part of the prize, Hayes and Johnson will both receive a $7,000 per year stipend for three years, which may be used for any university-related purpose.

Galina Hayes, associate professor of surgery at the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Galina Hayes

Hayes was commended for leading a project offering students hands-on practice with performing basic abdominal surgeries on dogs. The project includes a weekly lab where students can work on a synthetic cadaver; narrated videos show each procedure, with close-up shots detailing each step. The program’s extensive notes and other learning materials are available to students into their early years of their careers. Students and recent graduates routinely comment that the lab is one of the most impactful learning experiences they had while at Cornell, the nominating committee wrote. Hayes won an innovative teaching award from her department for this work.

During the pandemic, Hayes established a virtual surgical clinical teaching opportunity for students sheltering at home, which elicited accolades from faculty and students alike.

With a Ph.D in epidemiology, Hayes also teaches faculty and is a sought-after collaborator for statistical consultation on manuscripts. And she contributes to the continuing education of practicing veterinarians – a vital component of the profession – through regional, national and international conferences and workshops.

Sheri L. Johnson

Johnson created and runs the Law School’s academic orientation program for incoming students and helps them develop the key skills of legal analysis and advocacy in her Constitutional Law course.

As a practicing lawyer on high-profile cases, Johnson teaches upper-level clinical courses that involve students in death penalty litigation, which gives them the opportunity to apply their skills to client cases – “a transformative experience,” the nominating committee said. She was one of the first faculty to bring cultural competency into the curriculum, requiring students to confront the barriers facing the clinic’s clients, who are largely Black and raised in significantly different socio-economic situations than the students.

Sheri L. Johnson, the James and Mark Flanagan Professor of Law at Cornell Law School.

She introduces controversial topics to challenge students in ways that have a positive, long-term effect on their learning. She also advocates for international, first-generation and students of color. “Students are challenged by her yet give her outstanding evaluations,” the committee wrote.

As a testament to Johnson’s positive influence, the graduating law students have elected her multiple times to speak at their convocation ceremonies, the nominating committee noted.

The Provost Award for Teaching Excellence was created in 2021 to recognize excellence in teaching among faculty who teach primarily at the professional school and/or graduate program level. They are analogous to the Stephen H. Weiss Teaching Awards, which recognize excellence in undergraduate education.

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Lindsey Knewstub