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January 2012

2012 Dietrich College Graduate Student Teaching Award Winners Announced

Each year the college selects one of its graduate students for the Dietrich College Graduate Student Teaching Award to recognize excellence, dedication, and innovation in teaching. For the 2012 award, English Department PhD. candidate Heather Steffen, and Modern Languages Ph.D. candidate Yun (Helen) Zhao have been selected as co-winners.

A 2003 baccalaureate graduate of Bowling Green State University (B.A. [magna cum laude], in English) and 2004 masters-degree graduate of Carnegie Mellon (M.A., English), Steffen is a candidate for the PhD in Literary and Cultural Studies here at Carnegie Mellon. A central part of the PhD experience in this program is the opportunity and challenge to develop as a course designer and classroom instructor, and Heather has filled these roles superbly, in the main in the university’s required undergraduate writing course 76-101, Interpretation and Argument. As her nominators state, “Heather has developed into an extraordinary teacher who is willing to devote a great deal of time, energy and resources to improving her pedagogy . . . Clearly, her knowledge, preparedness enthusiasm and empathy make her a fine example of the sort of teacher who should be recognized for her contribution not just to our department, but also to the Carnegie Mellon community as a whole.”

A 2005 B.A. graduate of Beijing Foreign Studies University (in English Language and Literature), where she also received an M.A. in Linguistics and Applied Linguistics in 2008), Zhao is a candidate for the PhD. in Second Language Acquisition here at Carnegie Mellon. Zhao has demonstrated constant and strong dedication to her teaching at Carnegie Mellon. She has had full responsibility for teaching 76-100, Reading and Writing in an Academic Context, which is a required English composition course for undergraduate international students who are also second-language learners. Zhao’s class sessions are a model of organization, structure, student engagement, and innovative application of the expertise that she has acquired in her studies in second language acquisition. As her nominators write, “(Helen) is a gifted and caring teacher with charming personal warmth. She is a promising scholar and generous community citizen. She is unquestionably and exceptionally worthy of this year’s Dietrich College Graduate Student Teaching award.”

The winners’ respective home departments will present these awards at a time and place to be determined later this semester.

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Contact Shilo Rea, Director of Public Relations at or (412) 268-6094.


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