Pegasus Award

The Pegasus Award recognizes outstanding teaching by a graduate student in the NMSU Astronomy Department.

Name Year
Kristen Luchsinger 2022
Adam Smith 2022
Ezra Huscher 2022
Audrey Dijeau 2021
Harrison Cook 2019 / 2020
Sean Sellers 2018
Caitlin Doughty 2018
Rachel Marra 2017
Lauren Kahre 2016
Jacob Vander Vliet 2015
Sean Markert 2014
Teresa Ross 2013
Malynda Chizek 2012
Candace Gray 2011
Maria Patterson 2010
Tanya Tavenner 2009
Jiehae Choi 2008
Cat Wu 2007
James Stockton 2006
Jim Norwood 2005
Mike Sussman 2005
Glenn Kacprzak 2004
Mark Blackmon 2003
Melinda Kahre 2002
Steven Nelli 2001




Excerpts from winning nominations include:

Ezra is TA'ing for two classes -- both sessions of ASTR305V - "Life in the Universe". Ezra is present in all classes of one session, which are team-based and active learning; this presents a significant demand on the TA, who circulates the room helping the teams with their questions and doubts. Furthermore, Ezra helped design the creative and authentic assignments that constitute the class evaluation; in addition, he has several times gone the extra mile of bringing an interesting bite-size slide for 5 min discussion of a fun topic before class. Moreover, he's handled a significant amount of grading for both sessions. All in all, Ezra is the kind of TA that virtually every professor would like to have in their class. 

Harrison is an exemplary TA, clearly dedicated to helping students understand course material. He has a high level of engagement with his students, writing thorough comments when providing feedback. Of particular note is his drive and enthusiasm to develop creative new ways of explaining material, and the professional work ethic to complete all assigned tasks (grading, reviewing new materials, providing feedback, replying to student questions) on time and with a positive attitude. He played a key role in integrating the Tortugas Mountain Observatory as a remote teaching tool during the second half of the Spring 2020 term. This organizational effort afforded many undergraduates a close-up, nearly hands-on opportunity to experience astronomical observation and earn course credit in the process.

Caitlin has excelled as a TA for distance education in the substance of feedback she provides the students, the timeliness of her grading, and her commitment to improving the accessibility of the online course materials. In a distance education class, formative, timely feedback to student is absolutely essential and as such Caitlin is a role model for ensuring student success

Sean has gone above and beyond what is required or expected of him as a TA. He has covered for fellow TAs, lectured for professors, and assisted in grading. His repository of presentations and resources for almost all of the labs, is a resource that many will use in the future. His creativity and commitment to ensuring his students have the opportunity to succeed further exemplifies why Sean is so well deserving of the Pegasus award.

Rachel is a driver, consistently on top of her TA work and engaging students with elaborate feedback on assignments. Rachel consistent attention to detail, performing all tasks on time, seamlessly, and with grace and efficiency is fully appreciated by her students, who embrace her as their advocate for success.
Lauren’s interactions with both undergraduate students about class material and with other TAs about labs are exceptional. With her students, Lauren is knowledgeable and patient , striking a good balance in providing enough information to facilitate their ability to solve a problem but not so much that it gives away the answer without challenging them a little. Lauren’s interactions with students and her teaching strategy demonstrate her teaching capabilities and her commitment to the success of her students.

Jacob has played two enthusiastic roles as a TA. His development of supplementary lab mate- rial has created a process for students to keep their own materials as a study guide, thereby assisting with student learning. He has stepped up to provide guidance and assistance to new TAs, helping both incoming and senior students gain confidence in their own labs. In both these achievements, Jacob has contributed significantly to teaching in the department

Sean Markert has built an outstanding dedication to teaching and become a leader to the teaching assistants in the department. As well as an impressive breadth of classes, Sean strives to go the extra mile for each and every student and for new TAs, helping to familiarize everyone with labs and ensuring everyone is comfortable using the telescopes at the campus observatory.”

Teresa Ross is a kind and caring teacher, one who constantly works to ensure her students are learning and understanding the material. She made several additions and improvements to lab materials, and designed new lab projects. As a result her students performed exceptionally well in understanding the big picture concepts for her classes.”

Malynda Chizek’s dedication and commitment to teaching is exemplary. Her enthusiasm for astronomy and her ability to explain both concepts and the importance of each concept are outstanding. She combines this with a rapport with the students, a personal drive to both improve laboratory material and design her own lab exercises, and a calmness when faced with difficult situations.”

Candace Gray has displayed an exceptional ability and enthusiasm in her role as Teaching Assistant. I have been most impressed by her willingness to go the extra mile in ensuring each and every student obtained the best learning experience in her classes. Of particular note is the way she altered labs, and sometime rewrote them, to help students better understand complex subjects. She also devoted extra attention to students who required help outside of the usual class setting.”

“Enthusiasm is often remarked on as the quality that inspires students the most; Candace excels in this aspect.”

Maria Patterson has served as a teaching assistant for several professors in the Astronomy Department to date, and has received good marks for her careful work with undergraduate students. She is popular with the students whom she teaches, and her good communication and time organization skills made her a joy to have as a teaching assistant. Maria has been organized in conducting laboratory sessions, has volunteered extra time at the campus observatory, and was proactive in grading assignments fairly and consistently and providing feedback to her students. She has a strong desire to help non-scientists to understand and enjoy modern science.”

Maria’s desire to teach, and to teach well, is sincere, and her efforts have been of great benefit to the students who have been placed under her tutelage.”

Tanya Tavenner has consistently done an outstanding job as a teaching assistant for ASTR305 (Life in the Universe), working with several professors on the development and improvement of this course. Her knowledge of the course content is outstanding, and goes above and beyond what I consider to be standard for a teaching assistant. She has certainly reached the point where she could teach this class by herself, and be a very effective instructor.”

“When I first taught ASTR305, I implemented several new teaching strategies, including the use of clickers and a team-based learning paradigm. Tanya was not fazed by these changes; on the contrary, she embraced them and helped me to identify the strengths and weaknesses of my approach. This enabled me to make real-time improvements to the course before the end of the semester (when it would be too late to help my current students).”

Jiehae Choi is willing to go to great lengths to help her students to get back on course after disaster strikes. The result is that students who quite possibly would have ended the semester with grades of “D”, “F”, or “I”, drifting away from us, end up under her management passing the class – Jiehae simply will not give up on her students.”

Jiehae and a blind student went on to develop a clever technique for allowing him to trace stellar distributions upon the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram (for the final exam), using coins of different sizes to help him to “walk” his fingers across set spaced lengths corresponding to temperature increases …”

Cat Wu’s formal and informal student evaluations demonstrate her ability to teach, and the feedback from her students is very positive. Their comments highlight three of Cat’s greatest attributes: (1) Cat is knowledgeable, and is able to convey the material in such a way that students can understand and relate to it easily; (2) Cat takes the time to answer every question a student has, and will further make sure that they understand the answer, no matter who long it takes; (3) Cat’s presentation skills are exceptional. These qualities are, in my opinion, the makings of a future professor.”

Cat has the ability to create a relaxed environment, where students can feel comfortable asking questions and discussing lab topics within their discussion groups. She rotates from group to group posing questions and leading students to the correct answers, making sure that they arrive at the correct destination through the combined efforts of each individual in the group. Many times groups call her over to settle an issue because they have been arguing (quite extensively) about topics introduced in her mini-lectures.”

James Stockton’s supervisors all speak well of his enthusiasm for working with students. He is popular with the undergraduates whom he teaches, who cite his well-prepared presentations and good delivery style in the laboratory and classroom. His work as a teaching assistant showcases his strong desire to help non-scientists to understand and enjoy modern science.”

Mike Sussman is serving ably as the head of our campus observatory efforts this semester, not only running the telescopes on open nights but staying on top of instrumental issues and providing training sessions for other T.A.s. Few of our students are asked to teach both ASTR105 and ASTR110, and Mike has cheerfully developed a new set of laboratory and short lecture materials for ASTR110 this fall, having put considerable effort into similar efforts in the previous year for ASTR105.”

Jim Norwood began as a graduate assistant with virtually no teaching experience, but he quickly overcame any uneasiness about being in front of a classroom to become an excellent teaching assistant. His students have repeatedly commented to me that they appreciate the extra time he spends with them to explain difficult concepts. Jim’s creativity and motivation have improved the quality of our undergraduate instruction and are in direct alignment with the teaching mission of NMSU.”

“I am particularly pleased with the dedication that Mike Sussman and Jim Norwood showed last year in teaching ASTR105, where both T.A.s attended each other laboratory sessions as a matter of course in order to produce the best combined lessons through joint effort.”