Wayne State graduate students awarded 2024 Garrett T. Heberlein Endowed Award for Excellence in Teaching

Established by contributions from the former Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School Gary Heberlein, the Garrett T. Heberlein Endowed Award for Excellence in Teaching for Graduate Students is designed to elevate the attention given to teaching as part of graduate education and the preparation of graduate students to serve as college and university faculty. 

Awardees were nominated by their departments, professors, and former students and selected by a graduate student committee based on their demonstration of instructional excellence.

Congratulations to the following 2024 recipients!

Award category for recitation or laboratory sections:

Iryna Hatala, Ph.D. student and graduate teaching assistant, Department of Physics and Astronomy, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Iryna Hatala

Iryna Hatala has been recognized by her department as an exemplary instructor with an impressive wealth of teaching experience at Wayne State University from introductory astronomy labs to calculus-based physics. Students testified to her vital role in their education, one noting: “What sets Iryna apart is her remarkable blend of knowledge, kindness, and patience, which she consistently demonstrates in her interactions with students. She answered all questions with the intent of ensuring thorough understanding, not just providing a surface level response."

Hatala joined the department at the height of the COVID pandemic in 2020, demonstrating hard work and the ability to pivot as lectures and labs switched to online. She has provided extensive mentorship to her students and, above all, prioritizes creating a classroom atmosphere that encourages open communication and diverse perspectives. 

“Physics is a lot more than just formulas,” Hatala said. “It is a science about life. I wish for students to leave my class happy with a clear understanding of the importance of physics concepts.”

Award category for lecture sections:

Kristi Morris, Ph.D. student, Department of English, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Kristi Morris

Kristi Morris has been recognized as an outstanding graduate teacher in rhetoric and composition who creates scaffolded assignments connected to current popular media to keep students engaged in and outside the classroom. She prioritizes the empowerment of student agency, the incentive for collaboration, and the development of a welcoming atmosphere where meaningful peer support can take place. 

As a member of the Mentoring and Professional Development Committee in the English department, she has directly mentored GTAs, demonstrating a strong willingness to lead and be at the center of curricular innovation. She is also an active member of the Composition Learning Community, Composition Curriculum Committee, and Women’s Rhetoric and Composition Club, all at Wayne State University. In addition to the Heberlein Award, she has won the Doretta Burke Sheill Endowed Memorial Scholarship and Summer 2023 Dissertation Award. 

“I have three objectives for my writing students,” Morris said, “to build community amongst themselves in the classroom, to interrogate and employ writing as a tool to enact change, and to use the writing process to find solutions to problems.”

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