At the close of the Spring 2021 semester we are saying so-long and good luck to 14 Academic Excellence Workshop (AEW) facilitators! These graduates hail from 8 different engineering programs and together they represent 70 semesters of teaching and 72 AEW workshops during their undergraduate careers. It bears mentioning that all of these facilitators, whose education experience had been completely in-person, not only transitioned their learning to online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also very successfully transitioned their teaching to online for the past 3 semesters. We honor and share gratitude for each one of them and their work that was so clearly driven by passion and perseverance, to give back and support their Cornell Engineering community, during this difficult time!
Evan Austin, Materials Science and Engineering graduate
Evan is a veteran AEW facilitator:
“Over my last 7 classes teaching (Math)1920, I have really come to appreciate and align with the ELI goals of promoting collaborative and active learning. The learning science research that goes into all the trainings and the AEW program are certainly not for nothing, I have seen the impacts first hand!
…The AEW program has been a source of light in my college career”.
In his last semester his students thanked him for “creating this fun and positive AEW environment!” and one mentioned the critical importance of having ‘Bob the Burrito’ included in the problem-based worksheets. And while we may never know the context in which ‘Bob’ entered the worksheets (some things are best kept secret!), we are indebted to Evan for his creative and open approach to his work and his teaching. Evan awaits his assignment in the Peace Corps as an Agricultural Volunteer in Guatemala, continuing his legacy of building community and helping others.
Alexis Mottram, Chemical Engineering graduate
Alexis has honed her skills and supported her peers as a facilitator for 6 semesters!
“I have loved my time as an AEW facilitator, thanks so much to everyone in the program!”
This comment from a student expresses one of the super powers of peer education:
“You make me feel valid for struggling and messing up because you don’t hide the fact that you know exactly how it feels. Your story of surviving STEM at Cornell and your moxie to be your true self no matter what make me believe that I can make it though another topic, another test, and another three years even when it seems a little daunting“
Alexis will be starting work in an oncology research lab at Dana Farber Cancer Institute. We are so grateful for the dedication exemplified by Alexis! We know this young professional has a bright future!
Apoorva Agarwal, Chemical Engineering graduate
Apoorva is another 6-semester facilitator. In addition to the work as a facilitator Apoorva has had a leadership role for the past 2 years as one of our AEW Co-leads. In this important role she has collaborated to develop and lead trainings, collect and evaluate assessment data to improve the efficacy of the program, and supported new facilitators and others with independent conversations and meetings.
“I will miss the AEW program and my experience within it dearly and I hope to stay in touch after graduation. I wish nothing but the best for the future of AEWs and ELI in general. I know AEWs will continue to thrive and make an impact on countless students. Thank you so much!”
Her dedication, skills, and service to her team have been remarkable, and noted. Well organized, hard working, dedicated and poised were just some of the words that were repeated by the other facilitators to describe this engineer’s leadership characteristics.
Her students shared these words of thanks:
“Your teaching was excellent, and I feel it greatly helped my performance in the class”. “You have been a great AEW facilitator and have really helped my understanding…”
Makaya Chilekwa, Chemical Engineering graduate
Yet another amazing 6-semester facilitator, Makaya is identified as an excellent facilitator by her students and her patient understanding and clear and concise approach will be missed!
“I greatly appreciate your help as an AEW facilitator, I feel like I have such a better understanding of the material and feel more confident in approaching problems and asking questions!!” “I think most of us felt like we had a guardian angel …”
Makaya will be honing her skills by taking a gap year working as a Research Assistant at MIT before going to grad school!
Michael Richardson, Engineering Physics graduate
“I’ve appreciated being a facilitator”.
Michael is another talented, constant, dependable 6-semester facilitator who will be missed for his sense of humor, easy going nature and really excellent skills for keeping his students engaged in the work at hand. Here is just some of what his students said:
“You are a wonderful facilitator, and your effort and enthusiasm shines through your words. I enjoy your jokes during the AEW, which always lights up the mood.” “…and don’t forget about how many kids you’ve helped!”
“A great math teacher and mentor! I know you will do well in your career. You have mentored our AEW incredibly well and were always friendly and kind”
Michaela Bettez, Electrical and Computer Engineering graduate
Michaela, is also a veteran 6-semester facilitator who students appreciated for her mentorship as well as her ability to review and guide learning of complex material. We are so grateful for her long dedication and commitment to the AEW Program! Here is what her students had to say about her:
“I was intimidated by taking an AEW at first but you made the class feel very welcoming and casual. I also really appreciate that you gave us tips for other classes.”
“Thanks Michaela! Your Math sessions have been very helpful, and manage to hold my attention even at night on a Monday!”
Michaela’s next step is enrolling in the MEng degree at Cornell, and then finding a job for the Spring!
Emily Care, Chemical Engineering graduate
Emily had a 5-semester run as a facilitator, and in addition to the work of facilitator, in her last year she worked as the other Co-lead for the AEW team. We value her thoughtful sharing of ideas, collaboration on developing objectives aligned with AEW program goals, and willingness to evaluate program feedback and move us forward. We are so grateful for her leadership and ability to grow and improve the program with Apoorva over the year. An excellent collaborative leader!
Of the many words to describe Emily’s style and strengths facilitators shared these: Caring, kind, strong, friendly, reliable, and organized
Her students shared these gratitudes: “You are an incredible facilitator and I have appreciated your AEW very very much!!” and “I appreciate you always going above and beyond to help me and everyone understand the material 🙂.”
Emily will be moving to Tainan, Taiwan to work for TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) as a process engineer.
Jessica Chen, Computer Science graduate
Jessica also shared her skills and experience for 5 semesters. We are so lucky that she used her time and talent to work and collaborate with us. Here we can see that her commitment to student learning involved building the community in which the climate was welcoming. Her leadership skills shone through for the students she supported:
“I was able to laugh and enjoy connecting with others while gaining a much better understanding of difficult topics like recursion. Thank you so much for making the class so enjoyable and helpful. You are a wonderful leader.”
“You really helped me combat my fear for coding :)”
Jessica will be working as a software engineer at PayPal in San Jose, California! And trying to spend as much time as possible with family and friends before she moves.
Lucy Huang, Chemical Engineering graduate
Another 5-semester facilitator, Lucy is known for her organization, and her clear written and spoken communications with her students. Thank you for your dedication and commitment to peer education and your students. Here is what they had to say:
“Thank you for being encouraging to everyone! Also, I liked the drawings you included in lecture”
“Thank you so much for being an AEW facilitator!”
Lucy will be moving on to a position as a Project and Improvement Development Engineer (PIDE) at Infinium in New Jersey!
Lynn Jeannoute, Chemical Engineering graduate
Lynn is another one of our strong Chemical Engineering representation who has taught for 5 semesters. She has collaborated to build community in our AEW facilitator team and strengthened the connections and served her students. Here is what her students have to say:
“Thank you for being an AEW facilitator. Learning this challenging material from a peer really helped my understanding”
We are so grateful for her dedication to this work and wish Lynn the very best in her future as a Chemical Engineering graduate!
Sijia Liu, Computer Science graduate
Sijia also worked with students and supported learning for 5 semesters. Colleagues observed that she and her cofacilitator fostered emotional connection with their students and often asked for feedback on what the facilitators should focus more on to make support stronger. Her students said:
“Your teaching was excellent, and I feel it greatly helped my performance in the class.” and “Good at explaining the topics that are confusing”.
We join her students to show our deep appreciation for all she did for the students in her AEWs.
Veronica Nobrega, Chemical Engineering graduate
Veronica is another member of the large group of Chemical Engineering students who have a long history with facilitating AEWs. It is a big commitment, and we are thankful for the time and effort she used to improve the learning experience of her peers. Her students sent her off with a big thanks!:
“Thank you for everything this semester!! Best of luck in the future!”
We join her students in wishing Veronica the best of all possible futures! Thank you!
Acacia Tam, Biomedical Engineering graduate
Acacia was with the program for 3 semesters as a facilitator and we only wish it could have been longer. This thoughtful peer educator was able to mix clear explanation and creative opportunities for her students to enjoy in her AEW sessions. Here is a strong tribute that exemplifies the feedback from her students:
“Thank you for putting effort to clarify things, making them understandable and enjoyable as well! A teacher like you is the heart of the educational system! “You light up the way! You are appreciated!”
Acacia is planning on doing a summer internship in Singapore for a patent law firm and then going to Boston University for her masters degree!
Sophie Arzumanov, Operations Research and Information Engineering graduate
We only had Sophie on our team for 2 semester. We are lucky to have worked with her and only wish we had more opportunity to collaborate. Sophie exemplified the growth mindset as a facilitator. She tried new things and grew her natural skills as an educator in two short semesters. Her own words tell a great story:
“I enjoyed my interactions with AEW my facilitators so much that I decided to become a facilitator myself and give back to the program. It was through being an AEW facilitator that I discovered my love for teaching. I wish I had been a facilitator for longer! I encourage everyone to become a part of the AEW program, because no matter where you’re at with the material, it will benefit your learning and sense of belonging within Cornell Engineering.”
Sophie’s students also said these things about her work:
“It’s amazing how a facilitator can make all the difference between being completely lost in a course, and feeling that you have a solid grasp of the topic.” and “Sophie has been so kind and helpful and can make any topic easy to understand!”
Sophie will move on to be a Business Analyst at McKinsey & Company in Chicago!
Thankfully these long-term peer educators have left us with suggestions and thoughtful feedback as they move on to the world outside of Cornell. We are excited for the new facilitators that will work with us and take the places of these amazing long-term peer educators, and we will miss their collective wealth of experience and knowledge. We know that we at ELI have benefitted from their involvement and only hope that the leadership skills they have gained as AEW facilitators will serve them will in their chosen professional futures. Many Many thanks to all of them. May you take your skills and passion out into the world and make it a better place!