Four Princeton University faculty members received President's Awards for Distinguished Teaching at Commencement ceremonies Tuesday, June 4.
They are: Yelena Baraz, assistant professor of classics; Andrew Houck, associate professor of electrical engineering; Deborah Nord, professor of English; and David Spergel, the Charles A. Young Professor of Astronomy on the Class of 1897 Foundation and professor of astrophysical sciences.
The awards were established in 1991 through gifts by Princeton alumni Lloyd Cotsen of the Class of 1950 and John Sherrerd of the Class of 1952 to recognize excellence in undergraduate and graduate teaching by Princeton faculty members. Each winner receives a cash prize of $5,000, and his or her department receives $3,000 for the purchase of new books.
A committee of faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, and academic administrators selected the winners from nominations by students, faculty colleagues and alumni.
Nord, who has taught at Princeton since 1989, is a scholar of Victorian literature and feminist, gender and sexuality studies. She is an associated faculty member with the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies. A colleague noted how her nomination letters underscore the important place she holds in the minds of undergraduates, graduate students and colleagues, in showing that "whether Deborah is mentoring doctoral theses, patiently developing ideas in a seminar, or singing with students at a Dickens birthday party, her teaching addresses the whole person."
Students described Nord in many ways, including: "great," "amazing," "great lecturer, masterful seminar leader," "dedicated and impassioned educator," and "one of the most gifted teachers I've encountered at the University." An undergraduate who took her course "Austen, Brontë, Eliot" said it was "one of the most intellectually stimulating and engaging seminars I took during my time at Princeton because of Professor Nord's superb teaching."
Nord was also commended for her generosity toward students outside of class. One of her senior thesis advisees said, "Professor Nord welcomed me to come to her office hours every week and has been willing to brainstorm with me, talk about close readings, or read entire chapter drafts and write up thorough comments." Added a former student: "Without ever being nosy or pushy, she always made it clear that her students were important to her as people as well as developing minds."
Nord's mentoring also is important to graduate students and colleagues at Princeton and at other universities as they develop their careers. "Throughout graduate school and in my postgraduate career, Professor Nord has remained a constant source of sage wisdom and guidance," wrote one of her former students. Another former student, now an assistant professor, said how grateful she was for Nord's commitment to her students: "I feel so lucky that I know and have been taught by Deborah Nord — a mentor who can get you through a dissertation, a job search, and the hardest parts of life with intellectual honesty, existential grace and an unflappable sense of humor."