Shanna Weitz, a PhD student who studies American politics, has done outstanding work in the Department of Government. Students who have taken “Foundations of Comparative Politics” and the sophomore tutorial Gov 97 consistently commend Shanna as “fantastic,” “incredible,” “awesome,” and “absolutely wonderful.” Students praise most her ability to involve everyone in the class, to “lead us all to make discoveries by ourselves.” Moreover, in an astonishing number of cases, she is credited with improving their ability to write and make arguments. It was this quality noted in her very first teaching evaluations that led her appointment as a departmental writing fellow.
Shanna has equally excelled as a writing fellow. Every student notes her accessibility and the quality of her feedback. She has utilized resources at the Bok Center and has been a central part of the “GovWrites” team, an innovative website piloted in conjunction with the Bok Center and the Harvard Writing Program. “Unlike many graduate students who have merely done a good job in assigned tasks, Shanna is a real self-starter who wants to find areas where she can truly contribute,” says George Soroka, lecturer on government and assistant director of undergraduate studies, who worked with Shanna on three workshops she proposed. “These workshops were well-attended because Shanna was responding to needs that had been expressed to her by students. The positive feedback was phenomenal.”
Her self-discipline and time management skills brought her to the attention of Professors Michael Rosen and Peter Hall, who tapped her to be the head teaching fellow for Gov 97 last spring. A wide-ranging course that involves teaching fellows with varying levels of experience required strong organizational skills and clear leadership. “Shanna was the ideal Head TF: practical, clear-sighted and independent,” says Rosen. “But, more important, she was very much a part of the TF group—engaged with the material and happy to share ideas and experiences, either inside the staff meeting or outside it.”
Finally, her work with senior thesis writers and as a mentor deserves equal recognition. This year, she is advising three honors theses on wide-ranging topics in American politics. Shanna provides the kind of close mentoring and coaching that all thesis writers should receive, continuing to meet with former students to discuss academic interests and career plans. A wonderful guide and mentor to all of students, Shanna has been particularly important for the women she inspires to follow in her footsteps.
Shanna, 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!