Associate Professor Jenna Marquard of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department and Associate Professor Jessica Schiffman of the Chemical Engineering (ChE) Department are the 2020 winners of the UMass College of Engineering Outstanding Teaching Award. As one Student Response to Instruction (SRTI) evaluator said of Marquard, she is the “best teacher I have had at UMass.” As for Schiffman, her SRTI evaluations were also exceptional. “I owe a great deal of my successes as an undergraduate student and researcher as well as a good portion of my career trajectory to her teaching and mentoring,” said one former student about Schiffman.
The nomination materials for both Marquard and Schiffman were brimming with overwhelming evidence of their qualifications for the teaching award.
According to MIE Department Head Sundar Krishnamurty, “Professor Marquard is without a doubt one of the best teachers in the department, the college, and the university, as evidenced by four student-voted Professor of the Year awards and two student-voted Advisor of the Year awards, two competitive campus-wide teaching fellowships (the Lilly Teaching Fellowship and the Team-Based Learning Fellowship), and multiple University of Massachusetts Amherst Distinguished Teaching Award Nominations.”
Krishnamurty added that “What makes Professor Marquard truly exceptional is also her extraordinary commitment to all students, as indicated by her developing a course on personal resilience this year – a truly innovative approach that can be expected to have a wide-reaching impact on students’ successes, particularly women and underrepresented minorities in engineering.”
One of Marquard’s student evaluators put her teaching expertise this way: “Professor Marquard’s true gift as a teacher was making it clear why the subject matter is important. I found myself enjoying the course load rather than dreading it, because I could see why I was learning the material. She made the abstract and unknown world of engineering a little more human and instilled in me the value of finding that humanity in everything I do.”
Other SRTI evaluations were just as glowing. “It was awesome,” said a student about one of Marquard’s courses. “One of the best courses I have taken.”
Yet another student said, “This was a wonderful class! I’m so glad that I took it. [Professor Marquard] was amazing. I appreciated her dedication to helping myself and the class not only understand the economics principles but be able to use them effectively in my life. Thank you!”
Schiffman received praise for her accomplishments as a teacher and a mentor, with outstanding contributions to a large undergraduate core course in kinetics and reactor design, as well as an innovative, broadly-enrolled graduate course on nanostructured biomaterials.
As ChE Department Head John Klier said in his nomination material, “Professor Schiffman would make an outstanding recipient of the award based on her exceptional commitment to undergraduate teaching, her tremendous motivation to provide students with clear content within a dynamic, compelling, and inclusive classroom experience, as well as her willingness to go above and beyond baseline expectations to develop innovative and compelling teaching, research, and outreach programs.”
Schiffman’s remarkable mentoring track record includes more than 35 undergraduate researchers who produced high quality work and published, with students having won campus Rising Researcher and national conference poster awards under her direct supervision. Klier also said that Schiffman “is an extremely talented, creative scholar and dedicated mentor that possesses a rich foundation in engineering, materials science, and microbiology.”
Among many other of Schiffman’s teaching achievements, Klier observed that she also provided tremendous service to the college as the program director for the Chemical Engineering Honors Program for six years, from 2011 to 2017.
“This program thrived under her leadership with 125 motivated and active students,” said Klier. “Professor Schiffman played a key role in re-designing and improving the honors program for our department through several new initiatives and working closely with the Honors College to better align Chemical Engineering course objectives.”
As Klier summarized his nomination of Schiffman, “In my view, Professor Schiffman has demonstrated exemplary teaching and mentorship that is well-beyond the accomplishments of others. Professor Schiffman’s efforts and dedication to enhancing the teaching excellence in the Department of Chemical Engineering are critical to the department’s future reputation and success.” (April 2020)