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‘Pearls’ in the Teaching Body

News of Note

2024 Sherrerd Prize winners announced


Published April 17, 2024

Inclusive, creative, engaging: These are just a few of the words used to describe this year’s recipients of the Sherrerd Teaching Awards.

The three faculty members selected for the 2024 teaching prize are Jennifer Beichman, senior lecturer in mathematical sciences; Alicia Grubb, assistant professor of computer science; and Jina Kim, assistant professor of English language and literature and the study of women and gender.

The annual Kathleen Compton Sherrerd ’54 and John J.F. Sherrerd Prizes for Distinguished Teaching were established in 2002 to recognize outstanding teaching by longtime faculty members, and to encourage newer faculty whose demonstrated enthusiasm and excellence has an impact on students and colleagues.

Student, alum, and faculty nominators described the work of this year’s honorees as “brilliant,” “generous,” and “tremendously influential.”

Beichman won praise for helping to reshape the way calculus is taught at Smith, pioneering the use of training groups and active-learning methods.

“She is a pearl in our teaching body, at a crucial point of our curriculum for a large swath of STEM students,” a faculty colleague wrote.

Grubb was recognized for their “creative” and “inclusive” teaching practices, including hosting regular “Technology Teas” and engaging students in real-world research projects in their lab. Others cited Grubb’s dedication to being a mentor for students.

“Alicia encourages students to think about why things work, what alternatives there might be and (arguably most importantly) how students’ work might impact their future,” said one alum.

Kim’s nominators described her skill at providing the classroom tools, time, and inspiration needed to explore complex issues of identity and social justice.

“She engages with questions of race, class, gender, and sexuality in ways that return again and again to her own and to her students’ lived experiences,” a faculty colleague wrote.

“She maintains authority and respect while being personal and vulnerable,” said a former student. “She made us all feel cared for.”

This year’s teaching prize winners will be formally recognized at a ceremony and reception for the campus community on Thursday, Oct. 24, at 4:30 p.m. in the Julia McWilliams Child ’34 Campus Center.

Here are brief biographies of the 2024 honorees:

Jennifer Beichman

Senior lecturer in mathematical sciences

Jennifer Beichman’s teaching at Smith has been focused on pedagogy and equity in introductory calculus courses. In her efforts to support students in mathematics and foster equity in STEM, she helped restructure calculus courses as coordinated courses with class time dedicated to small-group work. She teaches courses in the introductory sequence of Calculus 1 and 2, as well as courses in her areas of specialty: partial differential equations and mathematical analysis. Beichman is the founding director of the Calculus Training Group program, a peer-led supplemental instruction program now entering its ninth year.

She also ran a grant-funded summer research experience for underrepresented students, served as Posse mentor for Smith's fifth cohort of Posse Scholars, and mounted an exhibit in Neilson Library with students of 3D printed student-designed mathematical solids.

Her current scholarly activity includes supporting faculty throughout the sciences teaching students with interrupted and incomplete mathematics instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before she began teaching at Smith in 2016, Beichman was a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She completed her Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Michigan in dispersive differential equations, fluid mechanics, and harmonic analysis, and her bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Stanford University.

Jennifer Beichman

Alicia M. Grubb

Assistant professor of computer science

Alicia M. Grubb is a teaching scholar whose core mission is to create synergistic relationships between requirements engineering research, teaching, and practice by leading teams of undergraduates. As part of this, Grubb is on a quest to understand and build a theory of deep learning in computer science grounded in the learning sciences, and foster a community of scholars at Smith interested in questions about deep learning. By putting this evolving theory into practice, Grubb aims to increase access and engagement leading to learning that sticks.

Since joining the Smith faculty in 2019, Grubb has mentored more than 35 undergraduate research students, published 15 peer-reviewed papers (nine with undergraduates at Smith), and secured two grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), including a prestigious CAREER award. Since 2020, Grubb has served on the organization committee or program committee of the IEEE Requirements Engineering conference each year.

Grubb earned a bachelor’s degree in software engineering at the University of Waterloo, and a master of science degree and a Ph.D. at the University of Toronto.

Alicia Grubb

Jina B. Kim

Assistant professor of English language and literature and of the study of women and gender

A member of the Smith faculty since 2018, Jina B. Kim is a scholar, writer, and educator of feminist disability studies, queer-of-color critique, and contemporary multi-ethnic U.S. literature. Her forthcoming book, Dreaming of Infrastructure: Interdependency and Crip-of-Color Writing after the U.S. Welfare State (Duke University Press), brings a disability lens to bear on feminist and queer-of-color literature in the aftermath of 1996 U.S. welfare reform. Developing an intersectional disability framework called “crip-of-color critique,” it demonstrates why we need radical disability politics and aesthetics for navigating contemporary crises of care.

Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Signs, Social Text, American Quarterly, GLQ, MELUS (Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the United States), Disability Studies Quarterly, Lateral, and The Asian American Literary Review.

In 2021, Kim was supported by a Career Enhancement Fellowship from the Institute of Citizens and Scholars (formerly Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation) and a Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America Visiting Faculty Fellowship at Brown University. In 2012, she received the Irving K. Zola Award for Emerging Scholars from the Society of Disability Studies.

Kim earned her undergraduate degree in art and English literature at Agnes Scott College, and a Ph.D. in English and women’s studies at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Jina B. Kim