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Heller Awards

2022 Heller Awards Recognize Excellence in Our Community

April 06, 2022

After two years of virtual awards ceremonies, the Heller School celebrated its 2022 community award winners through a hybrid ceremony, with most attendees present in Zinner Forum and dozens of others dialing in over Zoom. 

Each spring, the Heller School recognizes outstanding service in teaching, mentoring, teaching assistance, staff service, research, and equity, inclusion and diversity. This year’s ceremony also included the Barbara Wakefield Award, which is presented annually to a student who has contributed to community-building within and outside of Heller. All award winners are nominated from within the school community and determined each year by a committee of past awardees, students and recent alumni. 

At the start of the ceremony, Dean David Weil noted, “We received so many nominations for the awards going out today, and it’s a sign of the engagement and dedication of the community. It’s also a recognition of the meaningful nature of these awards because they come from the community."

Brenda Anderson standing in front of blackboard in classroom

Teaching Excellence Award: Brenda Anderson, Senior Lecturer

For the third time, beloved MBA faculty member Brenda Anderson received the Heller Teaching Award. She also received this award in 2005 and 2015, and has also received the International Business School Teaching Excellence Award on three separate occasions. Nominators noted her exceptional compassion and her ability to engage students who feel anxious about accounting courses. One nominator said Anderson “consistently showed that she is aware of all the terrible things happening in the world and how these events are affecting everyone.” Another noted, “She managed to transform accounting, a class I was dreading, into my favorite class.”
Rajesh Sampath

Mentoring Award: Rajesh Sampath, Associate Professor of the Philosophy of Justice, Rights, and Social Change

Rajesh Sampath, the 2016 recipient of the Heller Teaching Award, this year received the school’s honor for mentorship in recognition of his exceptional ability to meaningfully foster students' academic and professional growth. One nominator, a doctoral student, called Sampath’s mentorship “a lifeline during a challenging year.” Another noted his holistic approach to mentorship, saying, “he advises us in a way that demonstrates an understanding of our strengths, both personal and academic.”

Amy AbuShanab

Staff Service Award: Amy AbuShanab, MBA’21, Assistant Director, Lurie Institute for Disability Policy

This year’s Staff Service Award went to Amy AbuShanab, MBA’21 for her many contributions to the Lurie Institute team as well as the broader Heller community. The nominations noted her exceptional support during the Lurie team’s transition to virtual work, as well as her management of the Lurie Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program. As one nominator wrote, “Beyond her multiple professional contributions, she is a friendly, kind person, always aware of her colleague’s needs and challenges, and sensitive to the diversity of life experiences of her colleagues.”

Kendra Berry

Teaching Assistant Award: Kendra Berry, MA SID/MBA’22

Dual-degree student Kendry Berry, MA SID/MBA’22, received this year’s Teaching Assistant Award for her work as a TA in economics and financial management classes. Nominators noted her skill and commitment to assisting struggling students, ensuring that they felt comfortable with the complex, quantitative concepts that come with a graduate level economics course. Multiple nominators described her as going “above and beyond” for her students.

Tynika Booth, Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Administrator

Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Award: Tynika Booth, EID Administrator

Tynika Booth, Heller’s EID administrator, received this year’s Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Award for her work to create a climate that is supportive and creates a space for collaboration, respect and trust. Several nominators noted her tireless work ethic and her impressive capacity to be integrally involved with so many aspects of EID work at the Heller School. As one nominator put it, “I know no one else who does as much and cares as much about connecting with students, supporting us and making Heller a welcoming community to diverse students.”

Peter Dixon

Early Career Research Investigator Award: Peter Dixon, Research Scientist, Conflict Resolution and Coexistence Program

Associate Professor Pamina Firchow presented the Early Career Research Investigator Award to her colleague, Peter Dixon, with whom she has collaborated since 2018. She hailed Dixon’s keen analytical mind, his academic curiosity to probe peace- and justice-related questions, and his dedication to turning research findings into action. “I continue to be amazed by his abilities and contributions to our shared research endeavors,” she said, adding, “Peter embodies serious research promoting social justice in the U.S. and abroad.”

Khaled Sakr

Barbara Wakefield Award: Khaled Sakr, MA SID/MA COEX’22

Khaled Sakr, MA SID/MA COEX’22, received this year’s Barbara Wakefield Award in recognition of his many efforts to build community among Heller students during extremely difficult times. Nominators mentioned that he often hosted and organized social events, held informal tutoring sessions, checked in on classmates who were sick or struggling, and consistently advocated for inclusiveness and community at Heller. One nominator said, “His empathy, awareness of the world, and compassion have made him both a friend and counselor to many students at Heller.”

Nomination period was open on February 2, 2022.

Nomination period ended on March 14, 2022.

See the full list of past winners here

Committee to Determine Teaching, Mentoring, Staff Service, Teaching Assistant, and Equity, Inclusion and Diversity, and Barbara Wakefield Awards

A selection committee composed of faculty, students, staff and alumni will review nominations. The committee will primarily be guided by the content of the nominations and secondly by the number of nominations.  In the case of nominees for the Teaching Award and Teaching Assistant Award, the committee will also look at teaching evaluations. For the 2021 calendar year, the committee will be as follows:

Teaching Award Past Winners:

  • Robert Dunigan
  • Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld

Mentoring Award Past Winners:

  • Monika Mitra
  • Ravi Laksmikanthan

Staff Service Award Past Winners:

  • Amy DiMattia
  • Sandra Jones

Representatives of Heller's 7 degree-granting programs and alumni:

  • Representative from the COEX program
  • Representative from the MPP program
  • Representative from the MBA program
  • Representative from the MS GHPM program
  • Representative from the SID program
  • Representative from the EMBA program
  • Representative from the PhD. Program
  • Alumni Representative

Barbara Wakefield

  • Past Winner of the Barbara Wakefield Award 

Other Members

  • Deborah Garnick, Chair

Current committee members are ineligible to win.

Committee to Determine Early Career Research Investigator Award

The winner of this award will be determined by a subcommittee of the Research Steering Committee.

Teaching Award Criteria

Excellent teachers can help students to be excited about learning, understand complex issues and events, or master a subject area. Your nomination for an excellence in teaching award should describe how the faculty member has been an outstanding teacher, incorporating criteria listed below. Please provide some specific examples and stories.  Any Heller faculty or research/program staff member is eligible to receive the Award if they have taught any Heller graduate course in calendar year 2021.

Excellence in teaching manifests itself in many different modes, styles, and voices, but some criteria include the ability to:

  • Communicate subject matter accurately, clearly, and with enthusiasm.
  • Be sensitive to racism, ageism, sexism, genderism, ableism, inclusivity, and other diversity issues.
  • Present, invite, and test multiple and balanced points of view.
  • Expand students’ ways of thinking by offering intellectual approaches that apply beyond the specific subject matter of the class.
  • Challenge and inspire students to become engaged citizens of the world who aspire not only to achieve understanding, but also to advance the cause of social justice.
  • Create communities of learners in which students can and do take intellectual risks and experiment creatively.
  • Treat all students with respect and consideration, responding appropriately to the individual needs of each student.
  • Stimulate students’ intellectual curiosity, fostering critical and creative thinking and problem solving.
  • Inspire and support students to do their best work.

Mentoring Award Criteria

The mentoring relationships students form with faculty and researchers at Heller can enhance their graduate education and lead to the achievement of professional and career development goals. Your nomination for an excellence in mentoring award should describe how the faculty, staff, or researcher who has mentored you academically during the calendar year 2021 has been outstanding in supporting and encouraging your research, education, professional, and personal development. Please provide some specific examples and stories. Some of the activities carried out by excellent mentors are:

  • Inspiring students to develop a vision of their personal and professional future, encouraging them to see what is possible, believe they can achieve it, and act on it.
  • Sensitivity to racism, ageism, sexism, genderism, ableism, inclusivity, and other diversity issues.
  • Advising and guiding research and field work.
  • Organizing an effective environment for research and scholarship.
  • Developing talents such as research skills, management expertise, teaching ability, presentations, writing, and preparation of grant and fellowship applications.
  • Challenging and inspiring students to become engaged citizens of the world who aspire not only to achieve understanding, but also to advance the cause of social justice.
  • Sponsoring students in the academic/professional community.
  • Advocacy and guidance in organizational and professional matters.
  • Serving as a successful role model.
  • Showing concern for students as individuals and supporting their personal development.
  • Demonstrating a long-term commitment to mentoring (including changing their roles as each student develops during graduate school).

Staff Service Award Criteria

Non-academic staff (not teachers or researchers) organize an effective environment for learning, teaching, and research and foster excellence in these areas.  Your nomination for an award for excellence in staff service should describe how the staff member has made an outstanding contribution to the community and its shared mission of using knowledge to advance social justice during the calendar year 2021.  Please provide some specific examples and stories.

Excellence in staff service is demonstrated in many different ways, but some ways include:

  • Promoting cooperative and effective organizational operations.
  • Sensitivity to racism, ageism, sexism, genderism, ableism, inclusivity, and other diversity issues and to the diversity of life experiences of community members.
  • Interacting with all community members as individuals and supporting their personal development.
  • Guiding students in adjusting to and navigating the challenges of graduate school.
  • Assisting community members in pursuing excellence in scholarship and research.
  • Facilitating contributions to social policy.
  • Fostering a sense of community with a shared mission within and across programs.
  • Modeling excellence in communication skills.

Teaching Assistant Award Criteria

Like the lead instructors they assist, excellent teaching assistants can help students to be excited about learning, understand complex issues and events, or master a subject area. Your nomination for a teaching assistant award should describe how they have been an outstanding teaching assistant, incorporating criteria listed below. Please provide some specific examples and stories.  Any Heller graduate student is eligible to receive the Award if they have been an official teaching assistant in any HSSP undergraduate or Heller graduate course in calendar year 2021

Excellence in the role of teaching assistant manifests itself in multiple ways, but some criteria include the ability to:

  • Assist the lead instructor and students to create a community of learners in which students, both as a group and individually, can and do take intellectual risks and experiment creatively.
  • Be sensitive to racism, ageism, sexism, genderism, ableism inclusivity, and other diversity issues.
  • Contribute to the smooth functioning of the course and the depth of students’ learning.
  • Treat all students with respect and consideration, responding appropriately to the individual needs of each student.
  • Communicate subject matter accurately, clearly, and with enthusiasm.
  • Make difficult concepts and information accessible and understandable.
  • Stimulate students’ intellectual curiosity, fostering critical and creative thinking and problem solving.
  • Inspire and support students to do their best work.
  • Challenge and inspire students to become engaged citizens of the world who aspire not only to achieve understanding, but also to advance the cause of social justice.

Heller Early Career Research Investigator Award

The purpose of this award is to honor the work of an early career Heller School researcher who has made an exceptional contribution to the science or whose work has had an impact on the public or community.  The contribution can be in the form of a publication, a research or program evaluation, research grant or contract, or other recognition by the research, scientific or funding community.  Eligibility for this award is limited to Heller faculty and staff who are approximately ten years or less from graduation with a research degree.

Nominations will include a 2-3 page summary describing how the researcher has met each of the criteria, and the nominee's CV.

Criteria include:

  • Contribution of the research to science or current literature
  • Contribution of the researcher to success of the research team
  • Importance of the issue in terms of social policy
  • Innovation / creativity
  • Impact or potential impact of the work on diverse or underserved populations
  • Contribution to Heller social impact mission

You may email the completed form and nominee’s CV (as an attachment) to Cindy Thomas (cthomas@brandeis.edu) and Andres Gomez (andresgomez@brandeis.edu).  Please use the subject line “Heller Research Award 2022”

Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity Award Criteria

This award is given to members of the Heller community who go above and beyond their roles and responsibilities to make noteworthy contributions that help advance inclusive excellence. These individuals have demonstrated recognizable efforts related to diversity, inclusion, equity and/or social justice to help enrich experiences for our faculty, researchers, staff, and students and contribute to the overall success and climate of the school. Any Heller Community member is eligible to receive the EID Award if they have made a significant contribution to equity, inclusion and diversity in calendar year 2021.

The nomination should explain the particular distinction that makes the nominee exceptionally qualified for this honor using one or more of the following criteria:

  • Developing a climate supportive of all students, staff, faculty & researchers, including fostering an environment that encourages collaboration, trust, and respect.
  • Engaging or leading public and/or academically-oriented endeavors that demonstrate intellectual excellence and commitment to diversity including: all protected classes, geographic origins, languages, ability, religion, political perspectives, socioeconomic class.
  • Welcoming new ideas and input from others and valuing diverse perspectives and opinions
  • Leading or sustaining efforts to use scholarly, co-curricular, and/or creative work to enhance the success of students and faculty of diverse backgrounds
  • Raising awareness and actively participating in diversity and inclusion efforts within the school
  • Committing to sustained effort and demonstrated outcomes to bring about equity in our community or society as whole.

Barbara Wakefield Award Criteria

This award is given to a recently graduated or soon-to-be-graduated student who has gone above and beyond to build up the Heller community, a leadership that goes outside the student's particular degree program through their activities, relationships and attitude. The recipient will receive a small monetary award and an invitation to serve on the Heller Alumni Association Board the following year. In your nomination please share their leadership qualities and describe how they have built up the Heller community. Barbara Wakefield was the director of financial services and student aid at the Heller School until her death in 1996. She is remembered as a vibrant woman who was very welcoming to students and staff. She worked tirelessly to find funds to support students and frequently helped them navigate complicated university processes. She was a voice for the students, especially those in need of extra support.

Eligible students are those persons who are receiving diplomas in August 2021, February 2022 (completed program in December 2021) and May 2022, and include PhD students who have completed 2 years of course work and passed their comprehensive exams.

The nomination should explain the particular distinction that makes the nominee exceptionally qualified for this honor using one or more of the following criteria:

  • Engaging or leading public and/or academically-oriented endeavors that promoted community building for all at the Heller School.
  • Inspired and uplifted classmates, colleagues or others by going out of their way to communicate and build networks amongst these groups.
  • Fostered networking across degree programs and has strong relationship building skills.
  • Took on a leadership role to purposefully bring together the community (for example, across programs, departments, centers, institutes, or campus-wide initiatives)