News Story

Innovative Faculty Members Honored with Dean’s Excellence in Teaching Award

Julia Watts Belser, Yulia Chentsova Dutton and Janeth Presores were honored with the 2021 Dean’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching. Since 1996, the awards have honored faculty members who have enriched the undergraduate experience through exceptional instruction.  

“The Dean’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching are an incredibly important part of our tradition,” says the Dean of Georgetown’s College of Arts and Sciences Rosie Ceballo. “Previous awardees are recognized and honored with a plaque that hangs in the Dean’s office so from my very first days I knew that this was an important and special honor.”

Julia Watts Belser

Professor Julia Watts Belser wearing a red jacket and smiling.
Professor Julia Watts Belser.

Belser occupies several roles within the Georgetown community. From teaching Jewish studies in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies to helping establish the minor in Disability Studies, Belser is a dynamic, interdisciplinary force on campus. She is also a senior research fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs

“Dr. Julia Watts Belser represents the best of Georgetown College faculty in the classroom,” said David Edelstein, Vice Dean of Faculty and a professor in the Department of Government. “Challenging students to consider the confluence of Judaism, gender studies and disability studies – two strands run through her teaching critical analysis and engaged reflection.”

Belser innovates with her lesson plans and assignments, bringing the outside world into the classroom.

“Her creativity and teaching might best be seen in a semester-long project she developed in collaboration with Georgetown’s ethics lab,” Edelstein recounted. “At the same time that students read disability studies theory and ethnographies of religious communities in the classroom, they also become ethnographers, making three different site visits to examine how access and inaccessibility are produced through tangible environments.”

For Belser, the dynamic back-and-forth with students is essential the process of learning.

“One of the things I love about Georgetown is the invitation to be so creative in the classroom,” Belser says. “My students are hungry for opportunities to grapple with big questions, to wrestle with the complexities of power and privilege and to integrate their learning more deeply with their own lived experiences.”

Yulia Chentsova Dutton 

Professor Chentsova Dutton smiles and receives her award for excellence in teaching.
Professor Chentsova Dutton receiving her award.

Chentsova Dutton, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology, is known for her methodologically rigorous approach to studying culture. Paired with that analytic commitment is an understanding and appreciation of the complexity of human culture. 

“Professor Chentsova Dutton is a dedicated and innovative teacher who cares deeply about our students, their sense of belonging and their relationship with the world,” said Elena Silva, Vice Dean of Faculty and a professor in the Department of Biology. “Her attention to connecting the academic with the experiential, her commitment to culturally informed teaching and her care for the whole student underpin her role as both example and exemplar of Georgetown’s commitment to teaching undergraduates.” 

Chentsova Dutton joined Georgetown’s faculty in 2007 and her courses over the past 15 years have left a mark on her students and the academic community as a whole. 

“Getting this award is a tremendous honor,” says Chentsova Dutton. “There is a long tradition of deep caring and engagement that this award represents.”

For Chentsova Dutton, the award doesn’t represent a culmination, but a recognition of how far she’s come in her academic career.

“I am also a first-generation immigrant,” Chentsova Dutton says. “I came to the United States as a high school exchange student from the then-USSR and ended up staying here for college and beyond. I was a low-income scholarship student that was able to achieve in large part because of caring and brilliant teachers I encountered along the way. This award is a reminder of the impact we can have.” 

Janeth Presores

Presores, an assistant teaching professor in the Department of Chemistry, has a direct impact on hundreds of undergraduate students every year who she teaches in demanding general chemistry labs. 

Professor Presores smiles while receiving her award for excellence in instruction.
Professor Presores receives her award while Dean Ceballo looks on.

“Remarkable, invaluable, supremely-organized and full-hearted. These are just some of the terms that have been used to describe Professor Janeth Presores,” said Andrew Sobanet, Vice Dean of Faculty and Professor of French and Francophone Studies. “Professor Presores has served on our faculty for the past decade, and in that time she has done, simply, outstanding work with both undergraduate and graduate students.”

Presores, who earned her PhD at Georgetown, has contributed in innumerable ways to the Hilltop. 

“It is a great honor to receive the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching,” says Presores. “Thank you to my colleagues in the Department of Chemistry for the nomination. This award means a lot to me as it recognizes my work and the enormous contributions of the graduate teaching assistants in these large multi-section general chemistry lab courses. I am grateful for the teaching assistants’ hard work, cooperation and suggestions to achieve the goal of delivering quality instructions and chemistry lab experience (whether virtually or hands-on) to undergraduate students.” 

Presores emphasis on teaching assistants recognizes that instruction is not done in a vacuum, but as part of a community

“I would also like to express my appreciation to our brilliant undergraduates at Georgetown,” Presores says. “Their enthusiasm to learn, resilience to meet our high academic standards and ability to quickly adapt to changes in the mode of instructions is nothing short of inspiring.”

by Hayden Frye (C’17)

Department of Chemistry
Theology Department