Four Princeton University faculty members received President’s Awards for Distinguished Teaching at Commencement ceremonies Tuesday, May 30. They are Jesse Gomez, assistant professor of Princeton Neuroscience Institute; Rosina Lozano, associate professor of history; Claire White, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment; and Tamsen Wolff, associate professor of English. The awards were established in 1990 through a gift by Princeton alumni Lloyd Cotsen of the Class of 1950 and John Sherrerd of the Class of 1952 to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching by Princeton faculty members. Each winner receives a cash prize of $5,000, and their departments each receive $3,000 for the purchase of new books. A committee of faculty, academic administrators, undergraduates and graduate students selected the winners from nominations by students, faculty colleagues and alumni.
Tamsen Wolff, associate professor of English, joined Princeton’s faculty in 2001. She specializes in modern and contemporary drama and performance, gender studies, cultural studies, voice, directing and dramaturgy.
Wolff’s practice as an actor and director is infused into her teaching and mentorship. She was among the first to teach musical theater as a form of dramatic literature at a university and laid the groundwork for Princeton’s Program in Music Theater. A colleague said she is “a brilliant scholar and critic who at once challenges and inspires her students. She’s able to connect with students as critics and theorists, and as an artist and performer.”
A former student recalled Wolff’s “exceptional clarity of thought, her analytical brilliance, her passion for the material, her love of teaching, and her confidence.” A former thesis advisee remarked that Wolff was “the best editor I have ever had. … Tamsen showed me how to communicate with humor and straightforwardness, with originality and open-mindedness, and entirely without pretension.”
Wolff’s dedication is visible in her service as director of undergraduate studies for the English department, her advising to countless student productions, and her generous guidance on hundreds of senior theses. Said a former student, “Tamsen changed the way I read, the way I write, the way I see the world, and the way I continue to navigate my way through it.”
Said another, “Four years after I graduated from Princeton, she remains an exemplar of how to think and talk and live.”
Commencement citation: To observe Tamsen Wolff’s public speaking course is to understand how the practices of acting and directing inform her scholarship and teaching. “Students study texts, they scruple and dispute,” a colleague noted, “but they also pay attention to their breathing, their posture, the somatics of communicating meaning, and feeling, in real time.” Professor Wolff has been a pioneer in teaching musical theater as a serious form of dramatic literature, and her admirers are legion. Her dedication is manifest in her service as director of undergraduate studies for the Department of English, her advising to countless student productions, and her generous guidance on hundreds of senior theses. According to a former student, “Tamsen changed the way I read, the way I write, the way I see the world, and the way I continue to navigate my way through it.”
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