Award Recognizes Extraordinary Teaching in Anthropology, Neuroscience and Writing Program

June 1, 2015
Wellesley Honors Three Professors with Pinanski Prize

During Commencement exercises on May 29, Wellesley professors Barbara Beltz, Philip Kohl, and Winifred Wood were awarded with the distinguished Pinanski Teaching Prize.

The Anna and Samuel Pinanski Teaching Prize is awarded annually to members of the Wellesley College faculty to honor fine teaching. The Prize may be awarded to as many as three members of the faculty each year, preferably one in each of the College's three academic areas: the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. The Prize is meant to recognize some particular strength, some style or method or course, or some other describable event that has been especially successful. Nominations are submitted by the College community. The selection is made by the President in consultation with the Pinanski Prize Committee.

During Commencement exercises, the President read a citation for each of the winners. Excerpts from these citations are included below.

Barbara Beltz, neuroscience

Allene Lummis Russell Professor of Neuroscience

From her citation:

Professor Beltz believes in giving her students autonomy—with a bit of guidance—when it comes to their research. “She has helped me become an independent scientist with my own opinions and ability to critique the work of others, while also teaching me to value group work and see the benefit of obtaining multiple perspectives on a question,” read one nomination.

As another student commented, “She has encouraged me to shoot for the moon and has prepared me to reach it. More importantly, I have seen her offer the same level of advice, guidance, and support to all students that cross her path.” Among her neuroscience faculty colleagues, Professor Beltz is known as the Mother Bear. “She provides all of us with the guidance and motivation we need to be successful, all the while looking after us as well,” said one faculty member. “Barb is the rare mentor who can very effectively provide non-judgmental support during difficult times and simultaneously push one to improve and be the best teacher/scholar that one can be.”

Philip Kohl, anthropology

Kathryn Wasserman Davis Professor of Slavic Studies; Professor of Anthropology

From his citation:

Professor Kohl, the Kathryn Wasserman Davis Professor of Slavic Studies and Professor of Anthropology, is known for making his subject matter come alive. This is especially true in his course The Middle East: Anthropological Perspectives. One student in the class noted how passionate Professor Kohl is in engaging students in difficult questions and novel concepts.

Another student who took the same class commented: “Coming from Saudi Arabia, I have learned to appreciate the beauty and complexity of the region’s history and culture, serving as a resource to my peers while learning from each others’ viewpoints and also challenging my own assumptions.”

No matter if he is doing fieldwork in the Middle East, co-leading a Wintersession trip to the Republic of Georgia, or meeting with students in person or over Skype, Professor Kohl always makes himself accessible to students. And, students said, that accessibility is critical to their success—both at Wellesley and beyond. One senior said that Professor Kohl was highly influential in her decision to attend law school in the fall. “I’m nervous if law school will have as dedicated professors [as Professor Kohl], but I am sure that I am prepared… based on my experiences in his class.”


Winifred Wood, Writing Program

Senior Lecturer in the Writing Program

From her citation:

“Wini pushes you to do better, and shows you that she truly believes you can do better,” said one nominator. “By the time we reached senior year, we accomplished things we didn’t think possible just because we didn’t want to disappoint her, and we wanted to make her proud.”

As another student said, “I have never had a professor or teacher that believes in me the way that Professor Wood does. I struggle with writing because I am dyslexic and she has always… [taken] the time to explain to me what other professors have overlooked. She has made me brave.”

Professor Wood is known for her influential courses—such as her class on documentary films or one on Alfred Hitchcock—and for her commitment to mentoring students outside of class. Patient, approachable, flexible, and kind, Professor Wood cares deeply about her students’ success at Wellesley and about their post-College lives. She has advised students at Wellesley’s Ruhlman and Tanner Conferences, and has helped a myriad of students make important connections in the film industry.

“Wini is the reason I love my major at Wellesley,” said one student, “and she is a huge reason why I feel I have a place on this campus.”