Three professors were recently selected for Emerson’s teaching awards after being nominated by students and their colleagues.
Tulais Srinivas, an associate professor, was chosen for the Helaine and Stanley Miller Award for Outstanding Teaching. Aaron Daniels, a part-time professor, won the Alan L. Stanzler Award for Excellence in Teaching. And Mary Kovaleski Byrnes, a senior lecturer, won the inaugural Emerson College Alumni Award for Teaching Innovation.
To select the Miller and Stanzler awards, Whelan said she and the college’s deans considered the number of times a professor was nominated and the comments they received. This year, there were 280 nominations, according to Whelan.
Whelan said she selected the top nominees and sent their applications to the officers of the Gold Key Society, a group of juniors and seniors with high academic records, and also the donors of the awards, Helaine Miller and Alan Stanzler. Gold Key Society President Dinesh Mohnani said he, the vice president, Melanie McFadyen, and other officers meet with Whelan to discuss their thoughts before she made the final decision.
“I looked for the teacher who is not only a master at their craft, but also an inspiration—a professor whose teachings extend beyond the classroom and industry by challenging their students to become incredible people,” said Mohnani, a junior marketing communication major.
The Miller award, given to Srinivas, is the largest, according to the campuswide email sent by Whelan. Srinivas currently teaches two sections of Gender in a Global Perspective and will be teaching two sections of Religion and Globalization in the fall. She is also the director of faculty development at Emerson’s Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies.
Srinivas said what excites her most about working with Emerson students is the short amount of time it takes for students to apply the skills that they learn, or at least process the information and question it.
“Emerson students are very empathetic,” said Srinivas. “If you explain a situation, they will get it very quickly. I have found that people with analytical learning skills, as well as critical textual learning skills tend to be more empathetic and to feel other’s emotions more strongly.”
Olivia Harvey, a junior visual and media arts major, took Religion and Globalization with Srinivas last fall.
“She is a powerful, educated, and professional woman who is truly an inspiration for everyone,” Harvey said. “She is a force to be reckoned with.”
Srinivas specializes in economic and cultural anthropology, and her work has been funded by renowned organizations, including the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Pew Research Center, and the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard University.
“What I love about teaching most is when the students get an understanding of a larger idea, and how a small example connects to a much broader subject,” Srinivas said. “Maybe they are applying it to something that has happened in their lives, and you can actually see that moment happen in a person.”
Daniels, the winner of the Stanzler award, is a psychology professor who taught at Emerson last semester. He said his class, the Psychology of Prejudice, was discussion-based.
“It was different from any other class I've taken at Emerson,” said senior writing, literature, and publishing major Michelle Morisi. “We didn't learn from a textbook, but rather from each other.”
Daniels said the most fulfilling aspect of teaching at Emerson was working with students.
“Students at Emerson are hungry for new ideas,” said Daniels. “At Emerson, students came in ready to discuss high level ideas...I’ve taught master-level classes and there was a bravery and adventurousness with Emerson students that I hadn’t seen before.”
Samantha Burke, a senior performing arts major, said she sent in a nomination for Daniels.
“The man is a walking encyclopedia,” Burke said. “He has so much to offer the Emerson community and is a perfect fit for what I think is the Emerson way of learning. If I could, I would have minored in Aaron Daniels.”
Byrnes, a professor in the writing, literature, and publishing department, was the first to be awarded the alumni award, Whelan said. It comes with a $2,500 grant, according to Whelan’s email.
Srinivas, Daniels, and Byrnes will be given their awards on April 27 in the Semel Theater, where the donors, Whelan, and President M. Lee Pelton will speak about the awarded teachers.
Deputy News Editor Laura King, who is currently in one of Srinivas’ classes, did not contribute to this article.