Congratulations to EEB graduate student Thomas Jenkinson who was named Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor by the Rackham Graduate School.
The Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Awards recognized the efforts and accomplishments of 20 GSIs across campus this year who were nominated by their program for teaching excellence. Winners of this award demonstrate exceptional ability, continuous growth and creativity as teachers; service as outstanding mentors and advisors to their students and colleagues; and growth as scholars in the course of their graduate programs.
"I'm grateful to have discovered a community of supportive colleagues here at Michigan who share my interest in the scholarship of teaching,” said Jenkinson. “I love learning about new and innovative teaching techniques to experiment with in the classroom, then discussing how they worked with my teaching community. And of course, my favorite thing about being in the classroom is sharing in the experience of genuine wonder that comes with learning about the natural world around us."
Jenkinson’s teaching philosophy is to invite students into science by providing authentic examples of scientific inquiry or problem solving, and relate this inquiry to their daily lives. He seeks to retain students in the STEM field by providing an inclusive atmosphere where students learn to engage deeply with complex concepts through peer teaching and group discussion. Jenkinson considers data from the pedagogical literature to inform his teaching techniques. He measures the achievement of his goals by collecting data on student understanding through a variety of formative assessments before, during and after instruction.
Jenkinson taught the following courses: Biology and Society (Bio 232, Honors), Genetics (Bio 305), Evolution (Bio 390), and Biology of Fungi (EEB 468). When he taught Biology and Society with Professor Patricia Wittkopp, she said he volunteered to give a guest lecture on human genetic variation, skin color and race. “I was impressed by his willingness to take on a sensitive topic that can be challenging for even the most seasoned instructor to address,” Wittkopp said. “He had a clear plan for the day, alternating between full class discussion, small group discussions, and a ‘jigsaw’ activity. I was impressed by his command of the classroom and the very skilled way he ran the class. In fact, I learned some new things that I look forward to trying in my own classes.”
“Thomas has been the pillar of my lab group over the last six years, both as a colleague in research and as a contributor to our research group’s spirit and structure,” said ProfessorTimothy James, Jenkinson’s advisor. “Most importantly, he brings a passion to both teaching and the science of teaching.
“Jenkinson studies and applies methods of pedagogy that aim at effectively engaging and increasing participation in the classroom,” James continued. “He is one of the most creative and effective GSIs in our department, and I have learned a lot about effective teaching from co-teaching courses with him.”
Professor Catherine Badgley, associate chair for the Program in Biology, invited Jenkinson to speak to her first-year seminar in fall 2015. They were reading “The Sixth Extinction” by Elizabeth Kolbert, which includes a chapter about the disappearance of frogs worldwide, mainly from the spread of a fungus. Jenkinson, whose doctoral research involves the fungus-frog system, “came to the class and engaged the students with the latest research about chytrids and frogs,” Badgley recalled. “The students were quite pleased to be learning from one of the world’s experts on this topic.”
Jenkinson has been awarded a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship and will be heading to the lab of Dr. Erica Rosenblum at the University of California, Berkeley. Previous winners of the Outstanding GSI award from EEB were: Ryan Bebej (2009), Krista McGuire (2006-7), Zach Miller (2005-6), Prosanta Chakrabarty and Keith Pecor (2004-5), Katia Koelle (2003-4), and many others who won prior to the restructuring of the department. This year, Theresa Wei Ying Ong was also nominated for this honor by EEB.