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Sherrerd Teaching Award Honors Smith Faculty

Four faculty members were named recently as the first winners of the Kathleen Compton Sherrerd ’54 and John J. F. Sherrerd Prizes for Distinguished Teaching.

The new Sherrerd Teaching Award is to be given annually to Smith faculty members in recognition of their distinguished teaching records and demonstrated enthusiasm and excellence.

The winners of the first Sherrerd Teaching Awards are David Cohen, professor of mathematics; Shizuka Hsieh, assistant professor of chemistry; Mahnaz Mahdavi, associate professor of economics; and Vittoria Poletto, senior lecturer in Italian language and literature.

The four faculty members will be honored at a presentation of the award on Wednesday, April 21, at 4:30 p.m. in Sweeney Concert Hall, Sage.

David Cohen joined the Smith faculty in 1968 after completing his doctoral studies in math at the University of New Hampshire. The author of “Introduction to Hilbert Space and Quantum Logic,” and co-author of “Conversational Calculus,” as well as several articles on math and teaching, Cohen specializes in empirical logic and quantum theory, analysis of algebra to physics, and the mathematical education of non-mathemeticians. He currently teaches Advanced Topics in Analysis, and Reacting to History.

Shizuka Hsieh joined Smith’s chemistry faculty in 2001 following a one-year post at Oberlin College. Since completing her doctorate at Oxford University in 1997, Hsieh has written several articles on molecular reaction dynamics, one of her research interests. At Smith, she currently teaches physical chemistry and environmental chemistry.

Mahnaz Mahdavi directs Smith’s heralded program on Women and Financial Independence, which endeavors to provide women with the knowledge to effectively manage and achieve financial objectives throughout their lives. Mahdavi joined Smith in 1985 after receiving her doctorate in economics at the University of Michigan, and also serves on the faculty of Smith’s program in Women Executive Education. Her current research focuses on the empirical analysis of behavior of the stock returns in the United States and emerging markets.

Vittoria Poletto has taught Italian at Smith since 1987, and will assume the directorship of Smith’s Junior Year Abroad program in Florence, Italy, next year. Poletto recently co-produced a computer program for teaching beginning and intermediate students of Italian. In her teaching at Smith, Poletto employs multiple forms of media, including art, opera, film and music to “make learning Italian as meaningful, as exciting, as accessible as possible to all my students,” she says.

The Sherrerd Teaching Award was made possible by a grant to the college specified for that purpose by Smith College alumna Kathleen Compton Sherrerd, a 1954 graduate, and her husband John J. F. Sherrerd, who live in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

Smith College has long placed a high value on teaching and welcomes the establishment of the Sherrerd Teaching Award as a publicly visible symbol of its commitment and dedication to superior pedagogy. “Smith College has traditionally emphasized the importance of dynamic, diverse and interactive teaching in imparting the principles of the sciences and liberal arts to its high-achieving students,” said President Carol T. Christ, who served on the English faculty at the University of California at Berkeley before coming to Smith. “The college considers the teaching of its students to be among its most essential objectives as a leading institution of women's education."

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