At a time when course instruction changed overnight, Manuel Meléndez-Sánchez stepped up to ensure that the transition to online teaching went as smoothly as possible, greatly exceeding the expectations of the Department of Government, and doing so with grace and good humor.

Meléndez-Sánchez was instrumental in assisting Steven Levitsky, David Rockefeller Professor of Latin American Studies, to redesign Gov 20, “Foundations of Comparative Politics,” for remote teaching. Together, they developed a new format, technologies, assignments, expectations, and support mechanisms, and Meléndez-Sánchez helped diversify course readings, particularly with respect to gender, an important priority within the department.

As head teaching fellow (TF), Meléndez-Sánchez also played, in Levitsky’s words, a “truly heroic role” in administering Gov 20, a challenging task in an ordinary year given the course’s size. He managed a large group of TFs, recommended asynchronous and synchronous teaching methods, and assisted in editing lecture videos. “The course ran almost seamlessly,” said Levitsky. “From the outside, and from the students’ perspective, the course may have looked simple and smooth-running. But this was precisely because of Meléndez-Sánchez’s creative and diligent work in the engine room.”

More important than the effort Meléndez-Sánchez dedicated to the course development and implementation were his teaching skills, which earned him a perfect Q score of 5.0. “I have never seen this before,” said Levitsky. “Manuel was organized, structured, and moderately demanding, but always engaged, accessible, and supportive. Students adored him—and crucially, they learned from him.”

Frances Hagopian, Jorge Paulo Lemann Senior Lecturer on Government, echoes Levitsky’s praise. “Manuel was, and is, not merely a supportive and conscientious TF,” she said. “He reaches every student in a way that empowers them to become budding scholars and sets them up to be lifelong learners. In the context of my regular meetings with students, the feedback I received about Manuel was unforgettable.”

In nominating Meléndez-Sánchez, Stanfield Professor of International Peace and Department of Government Chair Jeffry Frieden noted how dedicated the TF is to Harvard’s students. “Manuel has displayed a palpable empathy for students’ goals and shown an abiding interest in their academic and personal well-being,” he said. “I have no doubt that this superbly talented young man is well on his way to an impressive academic career as a teacher and scholar.”

Manuel Meléndez-Sánchez, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is pleased to present you with the Derek C. Bok Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching of Undergraduates. Congratulations!

Manuel Meléndez-Sánchez: 2021 Derek C. Bok Award Citation

Photo by Tony Rinaldo