Excellence in Teaching

January 27, 2014—Astrid Weigert goes the extra step for her German language students. Maya Roth helps shape her students’ love of the arts. And Gina Wimp instills in her biology students confidence and tenacity to excel in the sciences.

All three have been lauded for their work as College professors, and on January 23, 2014, the women were bestowed with a Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

At the 2013–14 Convocation of the College Faculty, Dean Chester Gillis told the audience that the competition for these awards is “always robust.” Candidates are often nominated by their respective departments year and after year before getting selected.

Before awarding the prizes, Gillis read from a few of the student recommendations. One student said the professor he was nominating was a major reason he stayed at Georgetown. Another called her nominee “one of the most influential people in my life.”

Weigert, a visiting assistant professor in the Department of German, has been teaching at Georgetown since 1999. In her time at the College, Weigert has developed courses on German romanticism, German business culture, and germanophone countries. She has twice been recognized for her work by her department and has been nominated for a dean’s award three times.

In addition to her teaching, Weigert has also been involved in the broader university community, participating in both the Doyle Faculty Fellows Program and the Engelhard Project for Connecting Life and Learning. The dean’s citation explained that Weigert “also offers a rare and memorable willingness to go the extra mile on [students’] behalf, to care about them as persons. Descriptions of long conversations outside of class, hospital visits to ailing students, personal farewell gifts to the senior students in her German business culture course, and a genuine interest in student lives beyond the classroom are commonplace.”

Roth, an associate professor and chair of the Department of Performing Arts, is credited with shaping Georgetown’s theater program during her time at the university. As the founding artistic director of the Davis Performing Arts Center from 2005 to 2007, Roth ushered in a new era in theater at Georgetown. In this capacity, Roth mounted Timberlake Wertenbaker’s plays Our Country’s Good and Galileo’s Daughter, as well as Charles Mee’s Big Love.

As a professor, Roth has taught classes on topics ranging from dramaturgy to contemporary American women playwrights to the history of world theater. The dean’s citation praised Roth’s breadth and success as a teacher, quoting one of her colleagues who wrote, “the sheer range of courses she can teach with genuine expertise and her capacity to engage and challenge students is remarkable.”

For Wimp, an assistant professor in the Department of Biology, her award came as a surprise. Not because her work didn’t merit it, but because she had no idea she was receiving it. Since arriving at Georgetown in 2007, Wimp has received funding from the U.S. Forest Service, National Geographic, and the National Science Foundation, among many other entities for her work on sustainability, biodiversity, and plant genetics.

While she is a devoted researcher, Wimp is also an engaged teacher. Many of her classes have waiting lists, and she has helped sharpen the focus and curriculum of the environmental biology major. Wimp also developed two new courses for that major: Ecological Analysis and Global Climate Change Ecology. In nominating her, one of her students wrote that she “combines passion for the material with compassion for her students. In everything she does, you can tell she truly cares.”

After the award presentation, Gillis invited three professors to speak about research and teaching in the sciences. Joseph Neale, the Paduano Distinguished Professor in the Department of Biology; Clay Shields, professor in the Department of Computer Science; and Abigail Marsh, associate professor in the Department of Psychology, each gave talks about their respective relationships to research and teaching, and how they’re combining the two in their own academic pursuits.

—Lauren Ober