Congratulations to SBS Teaching Award Winners

May 4, 2020
Brian Mayer (left) with students in the Poverty Workshop.

Brian Mayer (left), the recipient of the SBS Undergraduate, Upper-Division Teaching Award, developed and teaches the “Poverty in Tucson Field Workshop.” Students share their findings each year with local governmental agencies and nonprofit organizations to help improve the delivery of social services.


Congratulations to the recipients of the SBS Teaching Awards! We thank them for their dedication to students and the art of teaching.

Stephanie Pearmain, Career Track Assistant Professor, Department of English

SBS Undergraduate – Lower-Division Teaching Award

This award recognizes superior and innovative teaching in lower-division undergraduate courses.

Stephanie Pearmain teaches courses in children's and young adult literature and publishing and is the coordinator of undergraduate English internships.


Pearmain has developed innovative general education, honors, and English courses on writing young-adult and children’s literature, and she has secured numerous small grants to support her collaborations with students. She also provides opportunities for students to apply their creative writing and literary studies skills to real-world settings. One of her most notable student engagement initiatives is her leadership of the young-adult literature publication Pine Reads Review.

“Her students have lauded her as a responsive, caring, and committed teacher with a breadth of engagement in publishing and a depth of expertise in literature for children and young adults,” said English Professor Thomas Miller.

As one student wrote about Pearmain,“Because she is passionate about the subject and willing to go the extra mile to teach us information that we want to learn, she has been one of the most professional, exceptional and interesting professors that I have had in my time at UofA.”

Brian Mayer, Associate Professor, School of Sociology

SBS Undergraduate – Upper-Division Teaching Award

This award recognizes superior and innovative teaching in upper-division undergraduate courses.

“Brian Mayer has a well-established record of leadership, innovation, and scholarship with cross-disciplinary challenges that go beyond the classroom – improving students' educational experience and enhancing their learning outcomes,” said Erin Leahey, director of the School of Sociology.


Mayer developed and regularly teaches “Poverty in Tucson Field Workshop” and “Healthy Community Design and Innovation.”

In the Poverty Workshop, a community-based experiential learning course, upper-division undergraduate students learn about the root causes of poverty by interviewing low-income households in Tucson. The students analyze and share their findings each year with local governmental agencies and nonprofit organizations to help improve the delivery of social services.

“Dr. Mayer’s hands-on pedagogical approach is not about rote memorization or arm-chair theory,” said Jesse Merriman, a sociology graduate student who took both the Poverty Workshop and the Community Design course as an undergraduate. “Instead, he has developed courses that teach by having students interview members of the Tucson community and work together with them to identify common problems and innovate solutions. More than any other opportunities during my undergraduate career, these two courses filled me with the importance of and appreciation for doing sociological work.”

“In addition to bringing an innovative pedagogical approach and cultivating a professional research environment, students also benefit from Dr. Mayer’s accessibility and empathy. His devotion to the success of his students is something I experienced first-hand,” Merriman added.

Jessica Maves Braithwaite, Assistant Professor, School of Government and Public Policy

SBS Graduate Teaching Award

This award recognizes superior and innovative teaching in graduate courses.

Jessica Maves Braithwaite has developed and taught a range of graduate courses for the School of Government and Public Policy, or SGPP, on topics such as civil war, international relations, and human rights.


“Jess is one of the most passionate and dedicated teachers that I know,” said Faten Ghosn, SGPP associate professor.

“Jess comes to class well prepared, with a clear strategy for motivating her students to examine the materials critically and thoroughly,” Ghosn said. “Her teaching style is a combination of lecturing and student engagement. She draws on students’ answers to further the discussions and have them engage with one another. Jess is a committed and engaging teacher and an exceptional mentor.”

“We write to express our strong and resolute support for Dr. Jessica Maves Braithwaite’s nomination for the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching,” wrote three graduate students. “Dr. Braithwaite has dedicated every effort, both within and outside the classroom, to our success as graduate students and future academics. Her dedication to our studies and training has earned her the admiration and respect of the graduate students in our department.”

“It is far from hyperbole to state that Dr. Braithwaite’s pedagogy and mentorship serves as a foundation stone for her students’ successes in the graduate program along with their abilities to attain a position after earning the doctoral degree,” the students added.

Bjorn Wastvedt, Ph.D student, Department of Philosophy

SBS Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant/Associate Award

This award recognizes superior and innovative work by a graduate teaching assistant or associate.


“If ever a doctoral student should merit applause for his or her distinguished contribution to undergraduate education, Bjorn Wastvedt is just such a teacher!” said Christopher Maloney, professor in the Department of Philosophy.

“What was most impressive about Bjorn’s class was how effectively he had developed his own students into autonomous learners fearless of – but open to – unfamiliar ideas,” Maloney added. “What better abilities ought we hope to inculcate in our students? How better to prepare them for the demands of civil participation in democratic society?”

Associate Professor Laura Howard said that Bjorn’s online course in ancient ethics is one of the very best she’s reviewed: “Bjorn’s lecture style is measured, precise, and inviting.”

“Ancient ethics is fascinating, and Bjorn did a great job of getting me so much more interested in it, and taught me so much about it as well,” one student wrote.

Another student added, “I liked that Bjorn was very available to his students, and seemed to really care about us.”