MAGS Excellence in Teaching Award

The Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools was pleased to award the Excellence in Teaching Award in recognition of graduate students who exemplify excellence in the teaching and learning mission of our universities. Two awards were 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 was given to a doctoral student and one to a master’s student. Each award included a citation and a $750 honorarium that was presented at the MAGS annual meeting held April 3-5, 2024 at LeMeridien Hotel St. Louis Clayton. Winners of the award also each received up to $500 toward travel expenses to attend the MAGS meeting.

The MAGS Excellence in Teaching Award competition was open to all graduate students with teaching responsibilities enrolled in a member institution during the calendar year 2023. Institutions were restricted to one nomination of a doctoral student and one nomination of a master’s student. Following formal institutional review and selection, nomination(s) were submitted by the Dean of the Graduate School/College (or designee) using the provided application form. Nominations included a letter of nomination from the department head, a signature of endorsement from the Dean of the Graduate School/College or designee (on the nomination form), the nominee’s teaching portfolio (including a link to the teaching video), and current curriculum vitae.

MAGS Teaching Award Recipients




Doctoral Student Endy Kailer, Kansas State University
Endy Lopes Kailer is a third-year Ph.D. student in Agronomy at Kansas State University, where she has taught over 590 students in the past six semesters. Originally from Piedade do Rio Grande, Brazil, Endy earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Agronomy from Universidade Federal de Viçosa – Brazil. Endy was also a visiting student at the University of Kentucky. The courses Endy teaches include Soils, Soils Laboratory, Soil Microbiology, Soil Microbiology Laboratory, Biology of the Fungi, World Food Crops and Human and Cultural Diversity in the Food and Agricultural Sciences. For Endy, teaching is much more than just delivering information. The information has always been out there, but we are the ones who can bring it in a memorable manner that will catch the students’ attention and generate lifelong positive experiences. Endy’s teaching style is centered on bringing complex information in a more ‘digestible manner’ that students can relate to by bringing real-life examples to class, using dynamic and visually appealing lectures, promoting group discussions, and lots of hands-on activities. Endy always tries to explain critical concepts in a simple way to show that complex topics can be easily understood if presented in a familiar way. Endy also often brings to class exciting materials such as soil samples, live plants, and organisms/structures preserved in resin blocks for the students to observe and interact with. This approach has allowed her to create a more interactive and memorable classroom experience. The use of hands-on materials not only makes her classes more engaging but also allows students to better understand and connect with the subject matter.
Honorable Mentions Sarah Fischer, Indiana University
Rei Gordon, Western Michigan University


Master’s Student Delaney Sullivan, Kansas State University
Delaney Sullivan is an M.A. student in English specializing in children’s literature from Kansas State University (K-State). As a Graduate Teaching Assistant in K-State’s English Department, Delaney is an instructor for “Expository Writing 100,”—a first-year undergraduate writing course that teaches the balance of informative composition on argumentative topics. Delaney also developed an original syllabus for and teaches an upper-level undergraduate English course, “Literature for Children,” which provides a working knowledge of major themes, authors, texts, and conversations in children’s literature for future teachers. At K-State, Delaney received the Graduate Student Council Award for Graduate Student Teaching Excellence and the English Department Jerome Johanning Memorial Scholarship for Graduate Teaching. Regardless of the course she teaches, Delaney’s goal is always to garner students’ excitement and engagement in the classroom. Whether it’s for writing or literature, Delaney’s teaching philosophy is to instill confidence in her students by crafting an engaging and participatory environment. Delaney has endless passion and energy for teaching, and she finds that when her students can see that they adopt a passion for the subject all their own. Whether it’s by crafting game-like activities that get everyone involved, using innumerable student examples, or navigating reading disabilities in the classroom, Delaney believes that when students think they can write, they will write. Prior to enrolling at K-State, Delaney earned her B.A. in English at the University of Florida. Delaney’s graduate research focuses on the intersection of politics and feminist theory in contemporary American adolescent romance series.
Honorable Mention Evan Martschenko,University of Cincinnati




Doctoral Student Luis Felipe Flores Garzon, University of Oklahoma
Felipe Flores is a second year Ph.D. student in Planning, Design and Construction at the University of Oklahoma (OU). Since his arrival at OU in Fall 2021, he has taught three classes at the C. Gibbs College of Architecture: Design Studio 1, Resilient Futures (Elective), Telesis: The Architecture Student Journal (Elective). In addition to his responsibilities as an educator, he has participated in a national mentorship program (Stacked Mentorship Program), a research conference (National Conference for Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education) and a fellowship (Center for Peace and Development at OU). These efforts were recognized by the Architectural Research Centers Consortium (ARCC), in 2022 when he was awarded with the King Medal. Moreover, he has participated in an exhibition (Muscogee (Creek) Tribal Towns Futurity Exhibit), two symposiums (Resilient Futures and Youth Perspectives on Climate Change) and two competitions (NOMA Student Design Competition and Tiny House International Design Competition) with the cooperation of students inside and outside the OU community. As a person of color and a graduate teaching assistant serving the OU community, he views these efforts as the synthesis of his main goal as an educator: to use design as a tool that celebrates diversity; and, in doing so, to create a more inclusive, equitable and caring society.
Honorable Mention Joshua Lovett, University of Illinois Chicago


Master’s Student Ashley Worthington, John Carroll University
Ashley Worthington earned her M.A. in English with a specialization in Renaissance literature from John Carroll University in the spring 2022. As a Graduate Teaching Assistant in John Carroll’s English Department, Ashley served as a Writing Consultant for the University’s Writing Center and taught “Introduction to Academic Writing”—an undergraduate course that teaches the fundamentals of scholarly writing and research across disciplines. During her time at JCU, she also served as a Graduate Assistant for “Introduction to Shakespeare” and sat on the University’s First-Year Composition Committee. In the spring of 2022, Ashley received the Graduate Excellence in Teaching Award for her work in her writing courses. Ashley’s teaching philosophy is grounded in the idea that writing classrooms should teach writing as a process and that frequent low-stakes writing exercises encourage students to become more comfortable with the practice—preparing them for more formal graded assignments. She believes that the more often students exercise their writing voices during brainstorming, prewriting, and freewriting activities, the more confident and eager they will be when composing in-depth writing assignments. Ashley’s students engage with some form of in-class writing every day—whether journaling, drafting, workshopping, practicing new skills, or prewriting to prepare for class discussions. She finds that the habit of daily writing builds a sense of community in her classrooms and encourages her students to view themselves as writers. Ashley currently teaches English at University School—an independent high school for boys in Hunting Valley, Ohio.
Honorable Mention Grace Hamilton, University of Notre Dame




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