Michigan State University
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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.


Cwen Homa


Cwen Homa is currently pursuing her master’s degree in musicology at Michigan State University. In 2015, she graduated from MSU with a bachelor’s degree in piano performance. During her B.M. degree, she attended a study abroad program in Todi, Italy offered by the MSU College of Music. She currently works as an accompanist at the MSU Community Music School and as pianist and organist at Okemos Community Church. Cwen’s interests in research include gender studies in music performance and Baroque keyboard performance practice. As part of her academic future, she will also pursue a master’s degree in piano performance in 2018-2019.

  • Cwen was the most understanding, helpful and caring TA I've ever had....She was always willing to go out of her to way in order to help her students out, and genuinely cared about how well we did in the class. I loved having her as a TA, she knows what she's doing, and she is doing it exceedingly well. GREAT TA.
  • I would award Cwen Homa for an award because she is very flexible and always makes time for the students. Also, she is open to students ideas and gives opportunities for students to speak, without forcing them to do so. She is very informative, helpful, and fair.
  • Cwen Homa. The best TA I have ever had at MSU. Passionate and knowledgeable on the subject, very helpful, and understanding.


Sarah Jacobson


Sarah Jacobson is a Ph.D. student in the Department of History. Her dissertation project focuses on marginalized squatters in Italy and West Germany in the 1970s and 1980s. She is interested in ways people assert claims to community, security, and belonging, even at the fringes of more visible movements. Sarah believes better understandings of the past lead to a greater respect of differences and empowers students and teachers alike to create improved situations for themselves and those around them. She plans on pursuing an academic career focused on the construction of borders and how people challenge their inclusiveness and exclusiveness in their day-to-day lives.

  • Sarah was an amazing TA. She was always making class interactive by letting us work in groups and be able to converse with her during class about what we thought. I felt as though it was such a comfortable atmosphere and one I wanted to learn in. She made the class interesting and the work prevalent to our lives.
  • Sarah Jacobson is far and away the most enthusiastic TA I have ever known. She did an excellent job, and genuinely seemed to care quite greatly that her students learned the course material perfectly.
  • Sarah Jacobson went over and beyond what she had to do being a TA in this course. She was punctual, extremely clear, motivated, and caring. I learned a great bunch from her. She has a great ability to explain in ways everyone in the section lecture would understand, and she would not move on until she felt everyone had a clear enough understanding of the material she was presenting, in order to prepare us for all the essays we had to submit. If I had a vote, I would cast it for her.


Jajuan Maefield


Jajuan Maefield is a Ph.D. student in African American and African Studies specializing in U.S. History.  He is interested in African American and U.S. history in the twentieth century.  His M.A. thesis examined the Nation of Islam in Detroit and Chicago and how they constructed a socio-religious identity that centered on the intersections of race, religion, culture, and liberation in the early twentieth century.  Jajuan’s current research examines how current and former adherents of the Nation of Islam (re)articulated their religious and cultural identities in the post-civil rights era. During his time at Michigan State University, he has served as a teaching assistant for IAH 203: Latin America and the World and IAH 201: U.S. and the World.  Jajuan intends to pursue a career as a professor at a teaching university where he can continue taking an interstitial approach to teaching U.S. and African American history while bridging the divide between academic scholarship and community activism.

  • Jajuan demonstrated excellent knowledge of the assigned materials. He was exceptionally helpful in teaching the students in his discussion groups. He was also very easy to get a hold of outside of the classroom and responded to questions quickly.
  • My TA, Jajuan Maefield, was an excellent TA and helped me out a lot during the semester. He thoroughly explained anything that needed additional explaining. Recitation was full of discussions and it really helped with me with the class material. He was always very prepared and most of all was helpful and kind. He cared and that makes a really big difference.
  • I would nominate my TA, Jajuan. He truly wants the best for his students and is for everyone understanding and achieving success in the material. Helps in every way he can, and always is available to talk to students outside of classes.


Shelbi Nahwilet Meissner


Shelbi Nahwilet (nah-wee-let) Meissner is a third year Ph.D. student in the Department of Philosophy, as well as a graduate affiliate of American Indian Indigenous Studies at MSU. She received her undergraduate degrees in philosophy, linguistics, and English from New Mexico State University. Shelbi's doctoral research concerns the relationships between Indigenous languages and Indigenous epistemologies, with special attention the implications of these relationships for Indigenous language revitalization programming and curricula. She is currently studying her ancestral language, Luiseño, through a revitalization program at California State University. In addition to being a self-proclaimed language nerd, Shelbi is passionate about youth activism and co-creating Indigenous feminist pedagogies.

  • Shelbi Meissner is an excellent TA who promotes discussion and makes me willing to participate in discussion. She's open and friendly, making it easy to talk to her, she's also very empathetic which in a sensative course like this is a necessity.
  • Shelbi Meissner has gone above and beyond to help her students and to make sure they understood the materials and also understand why they got the grades they got and how to be prepared for classes. She's an excellent teacher that I've had a wonderful time learning from.
  • I would nominate Shelbi Meissner because she really relates to her students she is teaching. The environment in her classroom is relaxed but also focused. She takes her time to make sure each student is being successful and is getting the best grade they deserve.


Adrienne Tyrey


Adrienne Tyrey is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History in the areas of Modern Europe, Africa, and Migration Studies. Following a year of research in Morocco and France on a Fulbright-Hays DDRA Fellowship, she is currently writing her dissertation on Amazigh (Berber) language education during the French Protectorate of Morocco (1912-1956). In 2016-2017, Adrienne served as an RCAH Graduate Fellow and in the Interdisciplinary Inquiry in Teaching Fellowship of James Madison College. Additionally, Adrienne is the coordinator of the annual conference "Migration With(out) Boundaries" at Michigan State University, and serves as a discussion leader in the "Muslim Journeys" book series at the MSU library. As a teaching assistant, Adrienne has instructed courses in History and the Integrated Arts and Humanities on Europe, the United States, and Latin America. Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Adrienne graduated from the University of Tulsa with a degree in History and French.

  • I would nominate Adrienne! She was an absolutely great TA. Always tried to help her students the most she could to understand what the professor was asking. She always extended her office hours if it was needed. She always had a great attitude about questions and respond in a positive and timely manner. She was a fair grader and organized the classroom discussions efficiently. She was very understanding graded out papers in a timely manner. Adrienne deserves an award.
  • Adrienne Tyrey is very knowledgeable about the subject matter and could help to provide a more clear understating of the topics discussed in lecture. Activists done in recitation classes supplemented lecture extremely well and helped me to relate the course to what I have previously learned. She is very relatable and easy to talk to. Asking questions is never something to worry about. She puts lecture into more of a story context that helps make it easier to follow and understand.
  • Adrienne Tyrey was the best TA I’ve ever had.  She’s really outgoing and relatable.  She teaches the material with such passion and makes sure the students understand the material.


Somers award recipients in previous years