Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Center of Integrative Studies in the Arts and Humanities
Somers Teaching Award
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The Somers Award for Excellence in Teaching recognizes graduate teaching assistants who have demonstrated a commitment to excellence, innovation and creativity in undergraduate teaching. Nominees are recommended by faculty and students for their strong ability to promote meaningful student-teacher interaction, as well as in creating a classroom environment that encourages active learning and critical thinking.


Eddie Bonilla

Eddie Bonilla

Eddie Bonilla is a Ph.D. student in the Department of History. He is interested in Chicano, African American, and Latin American history in the twentieth century. His current research examines Mexican, Mexican American, and Chicano communists in Mexico and the United States and how they attempted to create societal revolutions across borders. While at MSU, Eddie has served as the Midwest Representative for the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies and is the President of the Graduate Historians Association associated with the History Department. After graduation, he hopes to teach at a research university to continue teaching students about Latin American and United States history and their deep interconnections through transnational studies.

Eddie Bonilla has gone above and beyond my expectations of an IAH TA. Eddie effectively presented and analyzed the course material while keeping his students actively engaged. Eddie was very personable and always made the effort to have students participate by fostering an open, discussion-based learning environment in his recitations. Eddie was always available outside of class, and even outside of his scheduled office hours. Eddie was also very easy to contact by email, and would respond to any question in a timely manner. Eddie's criticism of graded papers was fair and constructive; he kept larger course concepts and goals in mind as he guided some of the writing, and avoided detracting from the work by nit-picking subjective details. I happily endorse Eddie Bonilla for the teaching excellence award based on my positive experience in his section.

Eddie Bonilla made me feel like he really cared about my learning and grades. Often times he would stay late after class to talk about themes of the class with me or discuss the way i was planning on structuring my essay.
Eddie Bonilla deserves a teaching excellence award because he not only cared for my recitation class (and I am going to assume he did this with other two sections) to succeed academically, but wanted to make sure we were gaining something from this course that would be helpful for us later in life. He responded to my emails very promptly and timely. He held consistent office hours, or would move his office hours to make sure we all had the time to meet with him if we needed.
Eddie Bonilla always came to recitation prepared and excited to teach. He was always available via email if you could not make it to his office hours. He understood the students well and would do everything he could to help us out. One of the best TA's I have had at MSU.

Kylene Cave

Kylene Cave

Kylene Cave is a Ph.D. student in the Department of English specializing in postmodern detective and crime fiction. More specifically, she investigates the role of memory in detective fiction and the implications it has for justice and the law. While at MSU, Kylene has served as a teaching assistant for IAH 202 (Europe and the World), IAH 207 (Literature, Cultures, Identities), IAH 207 (Race and Culture in U.S. Literature and Film 1776 to Present), and as a graduate assistant for ENG 342 (Detective Fiction). Kylene is also currently working toward both the Digital Humanities certificate and the Certificate in College Teaching at MSU. She hopes to eventually receive a position at a research university where she can continue to critically engage with students in a positive and meaningful way.

Kylene was very, very, very well-organized. She always had visuals for us and was always open for discussion between the class, and debate. She was extremely helpful when it came to explaining what we needed to do and discussing each book, I learned a lot more from her and had a better understanding from her.
Kylene Cave planned time outside of her office hours to meet and help me understand concepts and prepare for exams. She is organized each recitation and recitation is very productive because of that. She takes everyone input into account. She gives helpful feedback and helped me work through her comments to improve my papers. She is the best!

My TA, Kylene Cave is an excellent candidate for a teaching excellence award. Kylene was always prepared for recitation, ready to answer questions, and constantly working on new ways to help her students better understand the ideas within the text. Kylene offered a broad basis of ideas and was willing to temporarily adopt a new view point to better understand where her students were coming from, and to be able to offer additional ideas from real life examples and within the text. Kylene set the bar extremely high, and I feel lucky to have had her as a TA while completing this IAH course.

Kylene Cave was one of the best TAs I have had. She went above and beyond to ensure that we understood the material. When it came time for our writing assignments, she made herself available in case we needed additional help, she gave us resources and ideas to make sure we were able to write a quality paper. When it came time for our midterm, she helped us gather ideas for possible topics, and took her own time to gather resources for us. Kylene made recitation fun, and it was a pleasure to be in her class. She took so much of her own time to make sure we had resources and an exceptional understanding of the material, and I thank her for that!

Trevor Nelson

Trevor Nelson

Trevor Nelson is an M.A. student in College of Music, pursing a degree in Musicology, as well as an Interdisciplinary Graduate Specialization in Women's and Gender Studies through the College of Arts and Letters. His research focuses on female opera composers in Great Britain during the long nineteenth century, as well as queer pop music reception, issues of homonormativity, and ways music is used to enact social change. Through emphasizing affective responses to music, Trevor uses teaching as a way of building community, as well as highlighting and dismantling prejudice in Euro-American society. Trevor plans to begin his Ph.D. this fall, with the goal of eventually becoming a professor of musicology.

Trevor Nelson is a kind assistant and knows his material. He goes the extra mile to connect with the students and make everyone in the recitation classes feel welcomed and comfortable enough to share their views on the subject matter. He is awesome! He is also very accommodating with timing of assignments and is very good at keeping us informed of announcements in the class.

Trevor Nelson added to the knowledge shared by the professor during recitation with thoughtful discussions and further examples. He did his best to reply to emails and graded in a timely manner. He always added his own thoughts and notes into his grading. Nelson was always willing to help and give advice. Assigned reading was always relevant and helpful and quizzes assisted in remembering relevant information. Trevor is one of the top 10 TA's I've ever had.

Trevor Nelson did an excellent job during recitation. He easily related material from lecture to current events to make concepts easy to understand. He made the recitation enjoyable to go to and he made sure everyone was able to express their opinions.

Trevor was an EXCELLENT TA. Always willing to help students and had a passion for teaching. Easily one of the best TAs I have had at MSU!

Christina Rann

Christina Rann

Christina Rann is an M.A. student in Department of English, interested in African American literature from the Harlem Renaissance through the present. Her current thesis project primarily explores the way African American female authors, such as Gayl Jones, often can disrupt both the reading process and common (mis)conceptions concerning racialized gender by using postmodern narrative techniques. In the classroom, Ms. Rann is interested in co-creating spaces with her students which promote educational agency and interdisciplinary connections to students' day-to-day lives. She will be graduating in May 2016 and pursuing a career in editing or public/government affairs.

I would like to nominate Christina A Rann because she went out of her way trying to teach us things that we did not understand in our lecture. She would also express personal view points of the world and still acknowledge that others may not have her same beliefs and still respect the individual. She would also ask us what would be more beneficial for us to learn in a particular week for example ask us if we rather have help in writing our final paper, preparation for a exam, or go over some material from class. She was very open and a benefit to my education.

I would nominate Christina A. Rann for a teaching excellence award because she was the best TA I have ever had at Michigan State University. I learned so much from the recitations that I did not learn in the lectures. I became interested in this class due to my recitation teacher. She will make an amazing professor one day!
Christina Rann is the greatest TA I have ever come in contact with. She teaches through various methods which helps students gain more understanding of the course material. Rann teaches with passion even when she is sick and can barely talk. She truly cares about her students' success; she tailors each recitation to what the students find most helpful. Finally, she ran into a burning building to save our mid-term exams. If that's not superior then I do not know what is.

Ms Rann has such a passion for humanity and diversity, it really made me inspired to apply in class teachings to my everyday world. She has an insight on the world that just makes sense; she is the kind of person that gives out invigorating information. It makes it easy for students to not only pay attention but want to learn more. I thought going to recitation once a week was not enough, I would wake up Thursday mornings and actually be excited to go to class and hear what she has to say, or what songs we were going to listen to, or what videos we would watch. Not every teacher can ignite a student like Ms. Rann did for me. If anyone deserves an award for excellence it is this teaching assistant, I hope she goes on to mold the minds of many more.

Michael K Wilson

Michael Wilson

Michael K. Wilson is a Ph.D. student in African American and African Studies, specializing in Art History and also enrolled in the Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program. Michael's research interests revolve around the relationship between sites of memory and Decolonial aesthetic practices within contemporary art throughout the African diaspora. He is a past recipient of the Nelson Mandela Museum Fellowship; and in addition to having taught the undergraduate Survey of Africana Studies course at MSU, Michael also serves as the co-graduate coordinator for the My Brothers and Sisters Keeper Mentor Program within the Residential College of Arts and Humanities. He currently works as a research assistant for African art at University of Michigan Museum of Art. Following his studies, Michael wishes to pursue a career in higher education as a professor as well as a curator within a university museum.

I would nominate my graduate teaching instructor for a teaching excellence award because his knowledge of the subject and ability to share this knowledge and communicate with students is outstanding. Michael has arranged to meet with me and even walked to/from class with me to help me with questions I had about course content or about issues in general that were happening in the world or in my life that I thought he could shed some light on.

I would nominate Michael K Wilson for a teaching excellence award. During recitations Michael's enthusiasm on the material would inspire me to want to engage in conversations and learn more about this topic. He would give personal examples that would help illuminate the content of the required text. He would also many times refer back to things that were discussed in class.

Mike Wilson was a really good TA for the class. He always helped me with my papers and came to class prepared with real world examples about what we were learning about. He made things interesting.
Michael Wilson was truly a superior TA. He brought humor, and understanding to a sometimes grim subject. I personally feel, that I benefitted far more from our recitation class than the lecture. He always made myself and my fellow classmates feel comfortable enough to voice our opinions and explore the subject more. I'm very glad I had the chance to be his student!

Somers award recipients in previous years