Suchitra Samanta, instructor in the Women's and Gender Studies Program in the Department of Sociology and adjunct professor in the Department of Religion and Culture in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech, has received the 2012 Sporn Award for Excellence in Teaching Introductory Subjects.

The annual award recognizes a Virginia Tech faculty member who teaches introductory-level courses. Students submit the nominations. Award recipients are selected by a committee composed of student representatives from the Omicron Delta Kappa and Golden Key honor societies, as well as the faculty member who won the award the previous year. Award winners receive $2,000 and are inducted into the university's Academy of Teaching Excellence.

The award was established in memory of Dr. and Mrs. Philip J. Sporn and is sponsored by the Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research and the Virginia Tech Academy for Teaching Excellence. Mr. Sporn was a Virginia Tech alumnus and president and chief executive officer of American Electric Power Co.

A member of the Virginia Tech faculty since 2003, Samanta has established herself as an extremely popular and highly effective teacher. She teaches introductory courses such as Asian Religions, Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies, and The Asian American Experience.

“Suchitra teaches these courses with great seriousness and aims for her students to gain an ‘insider’ perspective on these subjects,” said Peter Schmitthenner, associate professor and head of the Department of Religion and Culture. “Unlike many ‘insiders’ who have a tendency to romanticize their own culture, Suchitra conveys this perspective with a critical eye with reference to comparable issues within the United States.”

Samanta is noted for constantly working toward enhancing her teaching. She has been involved with two different faculty study groups on teaching social justice and global citizenship. She developed several new courses; one in particular was in response to student demand.

“Suchitra’s ability to foster critical thinking in courses where faculty routinely encounter student resistance makes her success as a teacher all the more remarkable and valuable,” said Barbara Ellen Smith, professor of women's and gender studies.

One student wrote, “Class discussions got me thinking in a way I never had before. She opened my mind and encouraged me to grow as an individual.”

Another student wrote, “This class gave us the knowledge to engage diversity and foster compassion for fellow students and community.”

Samanta received two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia.



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