Brandeis Arts and Sciences faculty honored with annual teaching and mentorship awards

Students, faculty and alumni annually nominate faculty for these teaching and mentoring awards.

2021 faculty award winnersPhoto/Mike Lovett

Top left: Lucia Reyes de Deu; Bottom left: Sacha Nelson; middle: Wangui Muigai; top right: Ulka Anjaria; bottom right: Govind Sreenivasan

Five Brandeis University faculty members in the School of Arts and Sciences and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences have been recognized for their excellence in the classroom with 2020-21 teaching, mentoring and service awards.

Students, faculty and alumni annually nominate faculty members who have impacted their lives for the five awards: The Lerman-Neubauer ’69 Prize for Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring; the Michael L. Walzer ’56 Award for Teaching; the Louis Dembitz Brandeis Prize for Excellence in Teaching; the Dean’s Mentoring Award; and the School of Arts and Sciences Faculty Service Award.

The awards are overseen by the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences. Dean Dorothy Hodgson and Dean Eric Chasalow presented the awards at a faculty meeting April 16.

The following faculty members were honored:

Govind Sreenivasan, Associate Professor of History 

Professor Govind Sreenivasan received the Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer '69 and Joseph Neubauer Prize for Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring. The Neubauer Prize is awarded to an individual involved in the co-curricular and extracurricular life of campus who has also made a significant impact on students' lives as an exceptional teacher, mentor, advisor and friend. It carries a $5,000 prize. 

Sreenivasan joined Brandeis as an Associate Professor in 1997. He is a scholar of early modern European history, with a particular interest in rural Germany. He is a gifted lecturer who students describe as a “virtuoso” and the most interesting professor on campus with an encyclopedic knowledge of the material. 

What students say about Professor Sreenivasan: 

“Professor Sreenivasan is an excellent lecturer who is engaging, accessible, and fun. I would recommend this class to anyone. He is super easy to talk with, whether it be about a paper, life advice, or literally anything else!”

“I came into this class with an interest in history, but left it with adoration. My view on the causality of events is completely revolutionized, and I better understand the importance of the analytical skills that studying history imparts.” 

“I noticed that, when students made a particular effort at contributing to the class, he would quickly pull them aside after class to tell them he noticed and appreciated their efforts. When students who suffered from social anxiety or stuttering presented in class, he was patient and helped them through the presentation. When students, such as I, went through mental health crises, he was understanding and put our health above my academic achievement. He was flexible in these moments, allowing for creative solutions to be implemented to accommodate the student's needs.”

“Give this man an award, he deserves it.” 

Wangui Muigai, Assistant Professor of History and African and African American Studies 

Professor Wangui Muigai received the Michael L. Walzer ’56 Award for Teaching. The award is presented to a tenure-track faculty member who combines superlative scholarship with inspired teaching and carries a $2,500 prize. 

Muigai joined Brandeis as a Kay Postdoctoral Fellow in 2017 and then started as an assistant professor in 2019. She has published several articles and is currently completing a book manuscript on infant death and the black experience. Last year, she won the Jack D. Pressman-Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Development Award in 20th Century History of Medicine from the American Association for the History of Medicine and the Nursing Clio Prize for Best Journal article.  

What students say about Professor Muigai: 

“Talking specifically about race is something that we tend to shy away from, and I've found that this course has made me more confident in discussing my views with my family and friends because I have a better understanding. I have found myself questioning my biases and those of people around me in different ways.” 

“Dr. Muigai always respects our various ideas and perspectives, and always encourages us to critically engage with assigned texts. She expects the best of her students and gives her best in return.”

“She is so passionate about what she teaches, never misses a class, never cancels class, always gives 100% energy. Always available to help even when you’re not comfortable reaching out, she can tell when something is not right. Give her the credit she deserves.”

“She is phenomenal! Absolutely keep her as long as you can! She has challenged my beliefs. I am a huge fan! She is one of my favorite professors in the entirety of my Brandeis career.” 

Sacha Nelson, Gyula and Katica Tauber Professor of Life Science 

Professor Sacha Nelson received the School of Arts and Sciences Faculty Service Award. The award recognizes outstanding service contributions to departments, programs and the University by members of the School of Arts and Sciences faculty. The award carries a certificate and $2,500 prize. 

Nelson’s research seeks to understand the cell types and circuits that comprise the mammalian neocortex, and how these circuits are altered by normal experiences and during disease. His lab has been well-funded by grants from the NIH and Simons Foundation, with many publications in prestigious journals such as Nature, Science, and the Journal of Neuroscience. 

Nelson has held almost every position a faculty member can hold at the university. He served on the COVID-19 Task Force and chaired the Research, Labs and Studios Advisory Group. He has also served as Biology department chair and Neuroscience Graduate Program chair. He is a member of the Volen Center Steering Committee, Supervisor of the Transgenic Mouse Facility, and a member of the Premedical Board.

Nelson helped to design and launch the Health: Science, Society and Policy program, was a member of the Curricular and Academic Restructuring Committee (CARS), co-chaired a committee that designed the Justice Brandeis Semester program, and chaired the Committee for Faculty Rights and Responsibilities.

He was a member of the Faculty Senate and a member of the Presidential search committee that resulted in the hiring of Ron Liebowitz and served as a faculty representative to the Board of Trustees.

What nominators say about Professor Nelson:

“Sacha has always been ready to do the hard work of supporting and expanding the excellence and reputation of Brandeis University, even while maintaining his stature as a highly respected neuroscientist on the national and international stage. He is creative, incisive, and effective in his university service. I believe that Sacha is an outstanding candidate for this award.”

“In all of his roles, Sacha is focused on making Brandeis work better and realizing a strong vision for the future of the university.”

Professor Ulka Anjaria, Professor of English and Director of the Mandel Center for the Humanities 

Professor Ulka Anjaria received the Dean’s Mentoring Award. It recognizes faculty who are outstanding mentors for students enrolled in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Winners receive a certificate, a $2,500 prize and their names are added to a plaque in the International Lounge in the Usdan Student Center. 

Professor Anjaria teaches and researches South Asian literature and film. Her first book was a study of progressive writing, a movement that became dominant in mid-20th century India. Her second book considers the relationship of contemporary Indian literature and film to new politics in India. Her most recent book is an introduction to the popular genre of film known as Bollywood.

What nominators say about Professor Anjaria: 

“She played a key role in preparing graduate students to get jobs in the alt-ac world, evaluating applications to the "Connected PhD" program initiated by the Graduate School.”

“Brandeis has gained a great deal from hard-working, forward-thinking, selfless faculty like Ulka. She has been a great mentor in a person-to-person way and has also shaped our department in ways that reflect her large-scale commitment to mentorship. It is hard to put into words just how much I value her work and her insight.”

“I am nominating Ulka Anjaria because she has proactively helped me to develop professionally and academically. She's guided me with how to present at conferences, and also has given me advice and opportunities on exploring professional options for after graduate school.”

“Not only does Ulka currently serve as a reader for my dissertation, she has also been instrumental in supporting my professionalization and job search both in and out of academia.  She is always very responsive and offers helpful advice. “

“While I was drafting my job materials, Ulka provided line edit feedback on every draft, and has continued to look over materials for individual positions.”

“I really don't think I could have made it through this year without her -- both in terms of professional support with my career plans and in terms of keeping me on track and motivated with my dissertation.”

Lucia Reyes de Deu, Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies

Professor Lucia Reyes de Deu received the Louis Dembitz Brandeis Prize for Excellence in Teaching. The award honors an individual for her outstanding teaching and carries a $2,500 prize.

Reyes de Deu’s field is Latin American literature and culture, specializing in gender studies and feminist analyses of Latin American texts, specifically the literature and culture of Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile from 1884-1930.  She joined Brandeis in 2004 as a lecturer, became a senior lecturer in 2001 and assistant professor in 2015. She teaches courses in Spanish language, Latin American literature, culture and film. 

What students say about Professor Reyes de Deu: 

“She genuinely cares for the growth of every single student in her class. She works individually with every student to make sure that everyone is learning something new, regardless of where they stand with the language. I genuinely believe this amazing instructor deserves to be recognized.”

“I have only taken one course with Professor Reyes de Deu, but it is so clear how much she cares for her students. I have heard nothing but praises from my peers who have had her for multiple semesters as well.”

“Lucia has always pushed me out of my comfort zone when it comes to improving my Spanish language skills. Without her, I wouldn't be challenging myself to go abroad in a language immersion program. If I become fluent in the Spanish language someday, I will owe it to her.”

“I think that Lucia should for sure be considered for a teaching award because she has made my written work nothing short of extraordinary. I did not find myself capable of writing until this year.”

“Lucia sparked my desire to study public health, especially in Hispanic communities. She is an amazing professor.”

“Anyone who gets Lucia as a professor is so blessed. She is a true gem and an amazing professor.” 

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