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Marissa Wyant

The 2018 Graduate Instructor Excellence in Teaching Awardee


Marissa Wyant (Political Science) 2018 Graduate Instructor Excellence in Teaching Award winner

The Graduate Instructor Excellence in Teaching Award is awarded each year to a graduate student instructor to recognize the importance of teaching as a graduate student. The award was inaugurated in 2008. It is sponsored by the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning with the support from the Office of the Provost, the Graduate School, and Dr. Johnny Lott.

In order to become the recipient of this award, Wyant had to be nominated by someone.

“I didn’t know that I had been nominated at first,” she says. “I got the email and I had to submit a few pieces of information like a teaching statement, my syllabus, student evaluations, and I think I had to submit a synopsis of something I had done in class.”

Wyant then had someone from the Center of Excellence in Learning and Teaching come in to observe her class, which according to Wyant was very cool because it happened to be on the day of her discussion of human rights and politics.

“We have a really fun debate toward the end of my class when we sort of collected all these analytical and theoretical perspectives on studying world politics,” Wyant says. “We take these two concepts that the students learned in class: human rights and the environment, and we ask them a question like: ‘Is climate change a threat to human rights?’ Then ask them why that is. Not ‘why’ because ‘it’s good or bad’ but ‘why is this….’ It gets a really cool discussion where you can see where the application of the theories that you learned all semester.”

After waiting a while, Wyant soon got the email that she had won. 

“I didn’t expect to win because I hadn’t been teaching for very long,” Wyant says. “ I was shocked and surprised. I mean how exciting is political science for non-political science majors? I don’t know if my class even sounded fun to the people that were observing and reading the packets.”

As the recipient of the Graduate Instructor Excellence in Teaching Award, Wyant received a Golden Apple trophy, one thousand dollars, and a plaque with her name displayed in the J.D. Williams Library.

“I’m a science nerd and I do things by looking at data,” Wyant says. “I looked at past [award] winners and there had never been a political science winner. So I was like ‘well, okay.’ That’s a pretty low probability that they’ll be a political science winner. This has never happened before.”