14 February 2020: Two professors receive award for outstanding teaching and dedication to students’ learning

By Evan See

Assoc Prof Anju Paul, recipient of the 2020 Yale-NUS Distinguished Teaching Award. Image by Emma Creane (Class of 2022). 

For Associate Professor of Social Sciences (Sociology and Public Policy) Anju Paul, teaching has always been close to her heart. Both her parents taught medicine at the tertiary level, while her maternal grandparents were both English teachers. When she was a student, Assoc Prof Paul consistently found joy in giving tuition and teaching remedial classes on the side to secondary and primary school students.

“I’ve always loved teaching,” she said. “I love sharing my passion for what I love with my students.”

Assoc Prof Paul won the 2020 Yale-NUS Distinguished Teaching Award. Assistant Professor of Social Sciences (Environmental Studies) Matthew Schneider-Mayerson, was awarded the 2020 Yale-NUS Early Career Teaching Award.

Both winners were presented with the awards in a ceremony on 5 February. This is the second time the awards were presented after its inauguration last year.

Dr Catherine Sanger, Interim Director of the College’s Centre for Teaching & Learning (CTL) said, “The Teaching Award recognises truly exceptional teaching at the College, and the professors who are bringing extremely impactful and innovative education to our community.”

“The award also highlights the variety of teaching styles and the very different ways that our teaching can impact student learning. In this way, the award showcases the accomplishments of specific professors, while also contributing to a broader culture of educational excellence at the College.”

Following an open call for nominees that went out in mid-August last year, two winners were selected by a committee comprising Dean of Faculty and Professor of Social Sciences (Public Health and Psychology) Jeannette Ickovics, Dr Sanger, former winners Associate Professor of Humanities (Literature) Mira Seo and Associate Professor of Science (Physics) Ng Hui Khoon, and Student Government president Rachel Juay (Class of 2020).

Taking a holistic view of the nominees’ teaching record and impact on learning at the College, the committee reviewed materials such as student course evaluations and letters of support from colleagues and students. In addition, reflective statements by the nominees about their pedagogy and teaching records were also reviewed.

Asst Prof Matthew Schneider-Mayerson, recipient of the 2020 Yale-NUS Early Career Teaching Award. Image by Ashbel Chioh for Yale-NUS College.

Winning the Early Career Teaching award (presented to an outstanding Assistant Professor, Lecturer or Postdoctoral Fellow) was Asst Prof Matthew Schneider-Mayerson, who has been with the College since 2015.

Having taken a module taught by Asst Prof Schneider-Mayerson in her sophomore year, Ng Xin (Class of 2020) was happy that he has received the award. “He is such a conscientious professor, and is very thoughtful in the way he facilitates classes and comments on our assignments,” she said.

Asst Prof Schneider-Mayerson, however, remained quick to give credit back to students. “Being a faculty member at Yale-NUS has been an incredible experience, and a lot of that is due to students,” he said. “I’m lucky to teach such sharp, thoughtful, caring, and adventurous students. It opens up a whole range of pedagogical possibilities.”

He makes it a point to give students a role in shaping the direction of his classes. “For example, the syllabi for most of my electives contain open dates, for which students collectively decide which topics they want to focus on,” he said. “This way, the class tends to be more invested in the module, since it’s not so much my class as our class.”

Assoc Prof Paul, who has been at the College since its inauguration in 2012, echoed a similar sentiment. “When a class goes well, it’s when everybody is learning. It’s not just me teaching the students, but also me learning from them, and them from each other,” she said. “In many ways, I see teaching as the act of being a guide, rather than just being a scholar.”

Assoc Prof Paul’s students have had no shortage of praise for her.

Said Areet Roychowdhury (Class of 2022), “It’s easy to see how invested she is in her students’ research. She remembered details about my research project a month after I submitted it.” Mr Jason Carlo Carranceja (Class of 2018) shared, “She’s one of the few professors I’ve had who believes in you even when you question your own capabilities. She goes beyond the call of being an educator.”

On top of their teaching responsibilities, both Assoc Prof Paul and Asst Prof Schneider-Mayerson have published books recently. Released last October, Asst Prof Schneider-Mayerson co-edited An Ecotopian Lexicon, exploring loanwords from literature, activist subcultures, and non-English languages that might help reshape the climate conversation. Assoc Prof Paul’s 2017 book Multinational Maids: Stepwise Migration in a Global Labor Market recently was awarded an Honourable Mention under the American Sociological Association’s 2019 Distinguished Scholarly Book Award.

Both winners were honoured to receive this year’s teaching award.

Asst Prof Schneider-Mayerson said, “It’s a pleasure to be part of an institution that focuses on teaching, which incentivises faculty to put in the work to become better teachers.”

“I feel very touched and honoured,” Assoc Prof Paul said. “I’ve been lucky to have had amazing teachers when I was younger who have influenced me greatly. This is just my way of paying it forward.”