Graduate School Professional Awards for 2014

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Graduate School honors alumnus, faculty, and staff for accomplishments

Each year the Graduate School presents awards to recognize four individuals for their contributions to excellence in graduate education.

Outstanding Alumnus Award

The Outstanding Alumnus/a Award recognizes an alumnus/a of the Graduate School for academic or professional achievements since graduating from the university.

Jeffrey L. Elman Photo

Jeffrey L. Elman, an alumnus from the College of Liberal Arts, Department of Linguistics, has been named the Graduate School’s Outstanding Alumnus for 2014.

Dr. Elman received his doctorate from UT Austin in 1977 and is considered one of the Department of Linguistics’ most distinguished alumni, one who has truly achieved preeminence in his academic and professional career. His work has had great impact in linguistics, psychology, computer science, and the cognitive sciences generally.

After receiving his doctorate, Dr. Elman joined the Department of Linguistics at the University of California San Diego (UCSD), where he has remained ever since. From 1995-1998, he was chair of the Department of Cognitive Science, and in 2004 he became the founding co-director of UCSD's Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind, an
institute that brings together that university's very strong faculty in neuroscience
and cognition. In 2006 he became dean of the Division of Social Sciences, a position he still holds.

Over his career, his interests in the cognitive sciences have been broad. His research has spanned experimental phonetics, cognitive neuroscience, connectionist accounts of learning, child language development, and computational studies of word meaning. One measure of Dr. Elman's influence lies in the citation rates that his publications have achieved. According to Google Scholar, his 1990 paper "Finding Structure in Time," published in the journal Cognitive Science, has been cited 5931 times (as of 1/22/2014). That paper addresses the problem of representing time in connectionist networks, and is just one of his publications that has been cited thousands of times by other scholars.

The impact of his work across many disciplines was recognized by the Cognitive Science Society when it awarded him the David Rumelhart Prize for Contributions to the Theoretical Foundations of Human Cognition. The citation that accompanied this $100,000 prize said that "His work has had an immense impact across fields as diverse as cognitive science psycholinguistics, developmental psychology, evolutionary theory, computer science and linguistics." Without question, Dr. Elman has earned recognition as the Graduate School’s Outstanding Alumnus for 2014.

Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award

The Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award honors faculty members for outstanding teaching at the graduate level and for excellence in mentoring of graduate students.



Thomas Pangle

Thomas Pangle, the Joe R. Long Endowed Chair in Democratic Studies in Department of Government and Co-Director of the Jefferson Center, has been named the Outstanding Graduate Teacher for 2014.

Before joining the University of Texas in 2004, Professor Pangle held the University Professorship in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto. He is a lifetime Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He has won Guggenheim, Killam-Canada Council, Carl Friedrich von Siemens, and four National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships. He has been awarded The Benton Bowl (for contribution to education in politics) by Yale University and the Robert Foster Cherry Great Teacher of the World Prize, by Baylor University.

Professor Pangle’s nomination was supported by several students and colleagues who had much to say about his impact on the Department of Government, as well as their own professional development. Former student, Aaron Herold stated, “Professor Pangle treats his TAs not as graders or hired helpers, but as protégés, as future members of his own profession whom he is grooming to become his colleagues one day. It would therefore perhaps be more accurate to describe my experience as his TA as a kind of apprenticeship. We had individual meetings where we discussed how to grade papers, how to give lectures, how to write exam questions, how to lead class discussions, and how to construct a course syllabus.”

Herold also talked about how Dr. Pangle prepared him for life in academia by saying, “in the same way that TAing for Professor Pangle helped me to become a teacher, my experience writing a dissertation under his supervision has, I think, prepared me as much as is possible for that other half of academic life: independent research and publication.”

Professor Pangle’s colleague, associate professor Devin Stauffer, stated, “Tom does not teach down to his students; he does not pander or play to the lowest common denominator in the class. Rather, he presents material at a very high level (working always from pages upon pages of meticulously prepared notes), and he challenges the students to stay with him. The ride, while difficult, is made appealing and even mesmerizing by the spectacle of his extraordinary learning, his winning sense of humor, and the immense energy that Tom expends.” Find out more about Professor Pangle »

Outstanding Graduate Adviser Award

The Outstanding Graduate Adviser Award recognizes a graduate adviser for exemplary service to a graduate program. Elizabeth T. Gershoff is this year’s winner of the Outstanding Graduate Adviser Award.

Elizabeth T. GershoffElizabeth T. Gershoff, an Associate Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, in the College of Natural Sciences, has been named the Outstanding Graduate Adviser for 2014.

Dr. Gershoff has been the Graduate Adviser since fall 2011, after serving the department for two years as the Associate Graduate Adviser. Over the past two years she has reorganized the graduate program entirely, and consistently provides exemplary service to graduate students, faculty and staff.

One of the first changes Dr. Gershoff implemented in the doctoral program, which has 38 students, was to set-up individual meetings with every student each fall. During these meetings she conducts a review the student’s academic progress, coursework needed to meet degree and candidacy requirements, and sets future goals with each student that goes beyond the requirements of the doctoral program.

Third year doctoral student Liz Keneski stated, “Liz has developed and incredible level of trust with each of the graduate students, allowing us to candidly discuss our career goals, any struggles we have faced with our coursework, or in our relationships with our advisers, and even personal issues as they affect our academic performance.”

Departmental faculty said, “Dr. Gershoff has been instrumental in revamping our entire graduate admissions process and initiating the overhaul of our outdated departmental website to facilitate the recruitment of more competitive applicants to our graduate program.” And they say that, “Dr. Gershoff is never satisfied to rest on her laurels in her capacity as a Graduate Adviser. She is constantly finding ways to improve and to better serve the needs of graduate students and faculty alike.”

Outstanding Graduate Coordinator Award

The Outstanding Graduate Coordinator Award recognizes a graduate coordinator for distinguished service in support of the graduate adviser and other faculty in the administration of a graduate program.

Jennifer Tipton

Jennifer Tipton, Graduate Coordinator for the Department of Asian Studies, has been named the Outstanding Graduate Coordinator for 2014. Jennifer has been the Graduate Coordinator for the Department of Asian Studies since 2004.

Department Chair Martha Selby writes, “in my earlier role as Graduate Adviser, I realized very quickly that I could not perform my duties without Jennifer. Her excellent communication skills, coupled with an innate teaching ability, made it possible for me to understand the intricacies of the Graduate School and the University's complicated bureaucracy. I could not have asked for better instruction.”

Both faculty and students have praised Jennifer for her commitment to graduate students, as well as her organizational skills. Doctoral Candidate Dean Accardi stated that Jennifer played a major role in recruiting him to UT Austin, and continued to be an invaluable resource throughout his time at the University. Accardi recalls when he was overseas on dissertation research and needed letters of introduction from faculty to access research archives, “ within 24 hours of contacting Jennifer, she would have these documents emailed to me or faxed directly to the archives, allowing me to conduct research without losing any time. This was invaluable to me while I conducted research in Kashnir.”

Oliver Freiberger, an Associate Professor in the Department of Asian Studies stated, “one thing that makes Jennifer’s performance so outstanding is that she foresees trouble and takes action proactively. Many issues are resolved before they can even become problems. She coordinates our graduate programs exquisitely on all levels.”

In addition to her work in her department, Jennifer is an active member of the Graduate Coordinator Network (GCN), where she serves as an elected member of the Executive Committee. She is also the Chair of the Mentor Committee, and she is the GCN Historian.

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