Faculty celebrated with teaching and mentoring awards

Irina Dubinina, Ben Rogers, Kene Piasta, Janet McIntosh, Adrienne Krstansky, ChaeRan Freeze, Margie Lachman, Kerry Chase

Irina Dubinina, Ben Rogers, Kene Piasta, Janet McIntosh, Adrienne Krstansky, ChaeRan Freeze, Margie Lachman, Kerry Chase

Eight Brandeis faculty in the School of Arts and Sciences and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences have been recognized for their excellence in the classroom with teaching, mentoring and service awards.

Students, faculty and alumni annually nominate faculty members for the 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 Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean's Mentoring Award; and the School of Arts and Sciences Faculty Service Award.

Newly established this year, the Professor Mark A. Ratner Distinguished Teaching Awards recognizes tenured faculty in the Divisions of Creative Arts and Humanities who demonstrate innovative teaching and extraordinary records of engaging, motivating, and inspiring students and making a difference in their students’ educations, lives, and careers. 

The awards are overseen by the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences, and were presented at a faculty meeting in April.

Louis Dembitz Brandeis Prize for Excellence in Teaching honors an individual for their outstanding teaching: Kene Piasta, GSAS PhD’11, assistant professor of biology

Piasta’s areas of expertise include Biology education and protein structure-function. He joined the Brandeis faculty in 2015 and teaches a variety of Biology and Biochemistry courses. He also mentors students through the Science Galaxy Program, which he currently directs.

In their nominations, students commended his caring approach, willingness to answer questions, and investment in every student’s learning.

What students say about Piasta:

Nominator Comments

  • "What makes him a great professor is the quality of his character. The best teachers, in my experience, are those who care for their students first. Professor Piasta is exactly that. Professor Piasta is worthy and deserving of any of the teaching awards as he is an exemplary person and an excellent professor. "

  • "Kene is a fabulous, innovative classroom professor who has demonstrated a commitment to inclusive teaching and mentoring practices. Our division of science simply would not be the same without him."

  • "He has not only helped me to fall in love with biology even further, but has offered me guidance towards my future. This is what sets him apart from other professors; even though he teaches large classes and has a busy schedule, he is willing to take the time to sit down and discuss a student’s future endeavors. As he said to me, that is his favorite part of the job."

The Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer '69 and Joseph Neubauer Prize for Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring: Janet McIntosh, professor of anthropology

McIntosh’s areas of expertise include linguistic anthropology; anthropology of the military, psychological anthropology, and ethnic and racial relations. She has won a number of research awards and grants, including a National Endowment for the Humanities Faculty Research Award last year. McIntosh won the Walzer Award in 2005 and the Perlmutter Award for Teaching Excellence in 2006.

Students offered prolific praise in their nominations for this award, calling her “one-of-a-kind,” “generous,” “whip-smart,” “patient” and “encouraging.”

What students say about McIntosh:

  • "Prof. McIntosh's passion for the subject is visible and contagious. It personally made me want to read and know more than was required for her class and go to office hours to discuss what I had learned and what I wanted to understand better. Her class also made me seriously consider Anthropology as my future major."

  • "I haven't seen such openness, receptivity, and humility from a teacher before. The feeling that is left is that she actively looks for ways to make the experience better and to make the class and learning experience best for us... I recommend anyone to take a class with Janet. She inspires me to be better."

  • "Janet is an excellent professor. She is incredibly patient and encouraging, and I’ve often seen her help people to better understand their own ideas without any hint of harshness or criticism. I am a better scholar because of Janet McIntosh."

The Michael L. Walzer '56 Award for Teaching: W. Benjamin Rogers, associate professor of physics

Rogers’ areas of expertise include DNA nanotechnology, biological physics, and self-assembly. During his time at Brandeis, he has won a Teaching Innovation Award, a Provost Research Grant and the Smith Family Award for Excellence in Biomedical Research from the Smith Family Foundation. 

His courses include the Introductory Lab in Physics, Introduction to Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics, Waves and Oscillations, and the Quantitative Biology Instrumentation Laboratory. Students praised his focus on mastery over memorization and his dedication to their learning, and his colleagues shared that his success with innovative teaching methods have inspired them to adopt similar practices in their own teaching.

What nominators say about Rogers:

  • "Ben took it upon himself to thoroughly revamp the curriculum starting from scratch and implemented a new set of labs that now constitute our introductory lab for pre-health students. This is a sustained teaching innovation that is going to benefit generations of pre-health students at Brandeis."

  • "He has not only helped me to fall in love with biology even further, but has offered me guidance towards my future. This is what sets him apart from other professors; even though he teaches large classes and has a busy schedule, he is willing to take the time to sit down and discuss a student’s future endeavors. As he said to me, that is his favorite part of the job."

  • "Professor Rogers manages to understand the demographic of the course of mostly biology and/or pre-med students and still inspire interest in the subject and not discourage students with complex study material. The way he teaches is phenomenal."

The Professor Mark A. Ratner Distinguished Teaching Awards in the Humanities and Creative Arts: ChaeRan Freeze, GSAS MA’94, GSAS PhD'97, Frances and Max Elkon Chair in Modern Jewish History; and Adrianne Krstansky, Louis, Frances, and Jeffrey Sachar Chair in Creative Arts

ChaeRan Freeze is professor in NEJS and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies which she also chairs. She received the Walzer Award in 2002 and a GSAS Mentoring Award in 2013. ChaeRan is a prolific scholar of Russian Jewish History and recently published an article in Jewish Quarterly Review, “‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?’ Critical Love Studies in Russian Jewish History.” 

Undergraduates, graduate students, and fellow faculty have praised the empathy and care she shows her students, as well as her unique ability to connect on an individual level.

What students say about Freeze:

  • "Professor Freeze captivated her audience from day one to the day of the final. I honestly have never seen it before in my years at Brandeis. I can honestly say she is the first professor to hold my attention every class for an entire semester. For her passion and dedication to keeping the captivation of her students I believe professor Freeze deserves an award."

  • "Professor Freeze is very patient in and outside of the classroom. As an Asian student, I feel connected with Professor Freeze and my experiences in her class can never be found in any other classroom. I love discussing with her and I really admire her."

Adrianne Krstansky is an award-winning actor and director whose areas of expertise include improvisation, viewpoints, collaborative process/devising. She recently appeared in Kate Snodgrass’ “The Art of Burning” at Hartford Stage and the Huntington Theater. 

Krstansky’s colleagues have praised her ability to connect with students on an individual level, build community among groups of students, and encourage them to step outside of their comfort zones.

What students say about Krstansky:

  • "Adrianne has changed my life. She facilitates a safe, supportive space for all students and opens us up to truly understanding each other. As a professor, she is sensitive to students' needs, but pushes us to discover new abilities. In class, she allows students time to synthesize information and talk about how their lives outside of class relate to the material. I have never been so excited to go to class in my life. Learning feels natural with her. She allows us to teach each other, too."

  • "Outside of the classroom, she has spent hours helping me understand my own talents, direction, strengths, and weaknesses. I often visit Adrianne's office for answers. She has never turned me away. She never gives me [the answers] straightforwardly, but allows me to search for them within myself. This is so empowering and makes me feel like I have control over my education and my life."

  • "Adrianne has made me a better, more sensitive, critical, understanding student and person. She gives her students an amazing gift by teaching them. She is patient, kind, supportive, and critical. She sets high expectations for us not for bureaucratic purposes, but because she truly believes we can meet them. I have never felt like a professor has believed in me so much. I only hope that one day I can give someone the same creative, interpersonal, and collaborative power Adrianne has given to me."

The School of Arts and Sciences Faculty Service Award: Irina Dubinina, associate professor of Russian and director of the Russian language program

Dubinina has chaired the world languages and cultures committee for over 10 years, launched the Brandeis Language Oscar for 20B level foreign language classes, and is currently serving as the faculty director of the Center for Teaching and Learning. She also regularly hosts a weeknight Russian Tea session for her students.

What nominators say about Dubinina: 

  • "Nearly single handedly, she has elevated the teaching of all languages at Brandeis by encouraging and facilitating professional development in language pedagogy for Brandeis language instructors; by organizing on-campus activities to encourage students to enroll in language courses, and by building a kind of online “infrastructure” for language teaching at Brandeis that has brought recognition for the work that students and teachers do in Brandeis language classes."

  • "It’s wonderful that many more faculty can now benefit more fully from Irina’s commitment to improving teaching and learning at Brandeis, and it's a perfect time to say thank you to Irina for all the wonderful ways in which she has improved foreign language teaching since her arrival on campus in 2008." 

  • "She is an admirable colleague, role model and human being who brings not only a wealth of professional skill and knowledge but also immense compassion, cheer and great collegiality to every single meeting with students, colleagues, and mentees. A true Brandeisian!"

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean's Mentoring Award

In the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Kerry Chase, associate professor of politics, and Margie Lachman, Minnie and Harold Fierman Professor of Psychology, were presented with the Dean’s Mentoring Award, which goes to a faculty member who demonstrates outstanding ability as a mentor. in the supervision of students.

Read more: Two Faculty Members Receive 2023 Dean’s Mentoring Award

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