MAGS Excellence in Teaching Award

The Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools is pleased to announce the 2023 Excellence in Teaching Award. Two awards have been created to recognize the importance of excellence in teaching and mentoring as a component of graduate education and the preparation of graduate students for future service as college and university faculty. One award will be given to a doctoral student and one to a master’s student. Each award includes a citation and a $750 honorarium that will be presented at the annual meeting of the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools (MAGS).

The MAGS Excellence in Teaching Award competition is open to all graduate students with teaching responsibilities enrolled in a member institution during the calendar year 2022. Institutions are restricted to one nomination of a doctoral student and one nomination of a master’s student. Following formal institutional review and selection, nomination(s) must be submitted by the Dean of the Graduate School/College (or designee) using the enclosed application form. Nominations must include a letter of nomination from the department head, a signature of endorsement from the Dean of the Graduate School/College (on the nomination form), the nominee’s teaching portfolio (including a link to the teaching video), and current curriculum vitae. Excluding the nomination form, the letter of nomination, and curriculum vitae, the nominee’s teaching portfolio only is limited to six (6) pages double spaced, 1 inch margins, with a 12 point font.

  1. Download the Teaching Award Flyer HERE.
  2. Download the Teaching Award Evaluation Criteria HERE.
  3. Download the YouTube Upload Instructions HERE.

Nominations must be submitted as a single PDF document, with an embedded link to the teaching video. All materials must be submitted electronically to the MAGS Excellence in Teaching Award Committee by 11:59 p.m. (CST), Friday, January 20, 2023.

Submit your Nominations HERE (Google Form).

It is expected that the winner’s institution will cover any travel expenses which exceed the $500 provided by MAGS for the awardee to attend the meeting and receive the award. The faculty mentor or thesis advisor will also be invited to attend the presentation ceremony, but their expenses will not be covered.

Please direct questions by contacting Ilir Miteza, chairperson of the Teaching Awards Committee by emailing your question(s) to

The MAGS Excellence in Teaching Committee

Ilir Miteza, University of Michigan – Dearborn, Chair (2024)
Jenna Alsteen, University of Wisconsin-Madison (2023)
Lissa Behm-Morawitz, University of Missouri (2023)
Megan Miller, Kansas State University (2023)
Noelle Selkow, Illinois State University (2023)
Jennifer Waldron, Bowling Green State University (2023)
Coleen Pugh, Wichita State University, (2024)
Kristen Kponyoh, South Dakota State University (2025)
Kerry Wilks, Northern Illinois University, Executive Committee Liaison

MAGS Teaching Award Recipients


Doctoral Student Feyza Akova, The University of Notre Dame
Feyza Akova is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame. Feyza was the instructor of record for an undergraduate-level class called “Foundations of Sociological Theory” and also served as a teaching assistant for two other sociology courses. Feyza understands that learning about theoretical concepts can be difficult for students, so she structured her class in a way that shed light on the relevance of sociological ways of thinking while imparting key critical thinking skills. By using creative course materials and assignments and adopting a discussion-based class structure, Feyza created an environment where students could become more confident in their ability to comprehend complex topics while broadening their perspectives. Prior to joining the University of Notre Dame, Feyza earned an M.A. in Sociology from the University of Houston and B.A. degrees in Sociology and Psychology from the University of Istanbul. Feyza’s dissertation research explores spiritual transformation, tradition, and social change in the context of modernity through a case study that focuses on converts to contemporary Sufi Islam.
Honorable Mention Tara Jean (TJ) Mesyn, Michigan State University

Master’s Student Lynnli Wang, Indiana University
Lynnli Wang is a M. M. student in organ performance and the inaugural Carillon Associate Instructor at Indiana University, Jacobs School of Music. As IU’s inaugural Carillon Associate Instructor, Lynnli has created a new carillon academic program, which includes an active student Carillon Studio that performs regularly for campus. In the last two years, IU renovated and dedicated two new carillons, the Metz Bicentennial Grand Carillon and the Music Addition Carillon – together, the two instruments contain over 150 bells played by students daily. Lynnli teaches students one-on-one and hosts a weekly concert series that features guest artists, the Carillon Studio, and herself playing everything from pop songs and jazz to folk tunes and original carillon compositions. To extend the reach of the bells, Lynnli collaborates with students and faculty across the university, such as guest lecturing, leading tours, mentoring student composers and premiering their works, commissioning new pieces, authoring children’s books, and more. Lynnli is immensely proud of how her students quickly master carillon technique and musicianship, and then take the extra step to use the carillon’s miles-wide sonic reach to uplift others and promote change. Her students have performed concerts dedicated to BIPOC composers, underrepresented populations, and most recently, solidarity for Ukraine.
Honorable Mention Andrea Ramirez Tello, Kansas State University


Doctoral Student Patrick Heslin, Mathematics, University of Notre Dame
Patrick Heslin is a 5th year Ph.D. student in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Notre Dame, where he has taught over 400 students across 7 semesters. Originally from county Leitrim in Ireland, he completed his undergraduate and master’s degrees at Maynooth University before coming to the U.S. for his Ph.D. studies. Patrick believes that a lecture is most effective when treated like a performance, and that having an underlying energy goes a long way to holding an audience. He prioritizes concepts over methods and believes that building trust with students is a central component in overcoming the common stigma and fear around college level mathematics. He often incorporates active learning into his classrooms and has been an instructor of record for several flipped classroom models, both online and in person. His own research interests lie in the geometry and analysis of non-linear partial differential equations arising in fluid dynamics and other areas of mathematical physics. More precisely, he studies Riemannian geometry of diffeomorphism groups, equipped with various Sobolev-type metrics.
Honorable Mention  Sarah Beal, Classics, University Cincinnati
Masters Student Mariam Elgafy, Communication, University Cincinnati
Mariam Elgafy is a graduate student at the University of Cincinnati where she is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Communication. As a Graduate Teaching Assistant at UC’s Department of Communication, Mariam has taught over 300 students in her Public Speaking and Business Communication sections, as well as in a TA experience for a Public Relations seminar. Her teaching philosophy is rooted in empowering students to engage in dialogues that pertain to their identity, giving students the platform to voice their opinions, and equipping students with the tools to effectively influence others and enact change in their professional fields and interpersonal relationships. Mariam emphasizes the role of educators and higher education institutions in creating a space for students to embrace their authentic identities, while prioritizing accessibility of technology and mental health resources. Mariam currently serves as the Graduate Assistant for UC’s Office of Government Relations and attends to volunteer work in faith-based professional networks in Cincinnati. Mariam received UC’s 2020 university-wide Graduate Assistant MA Excellence in Teaching award.

Mariam’s thesis project, chaired by Dr. Ronald Jackson III, focuses on media representations and framings of state legislations that impact marginalized communities. Mariam’s research focuses on intercultural and identity communication, media representation, and faith/race-based identities. Graduating Summa Cum Laude from the University of Cincinnati, Mariam earned her B.S. in Education, B.A. in Communication, and minor in Political Science. As an undergraduate, Mariam engaged with Student Government, student taught at various schools in Ohio, mentored students, and worked at a tutoring center teaching Arabic; later earning UC’s Presidential Leadership Medal of Excellence in 2019. Post-masters, Mariam plans to work for 1-2 years before pursuing a Law degree and allowing her passion for educational reform and policy making to flourish.

Honorable Mention Paul Myers, Communication, Wichita State University