Hamilton College's highest awards for teaching were presented on May 7 to three faculty members. Douglas Weldon, the Stone Professor of Psychology and director of the Neuroscience Program, was awarded the Samuel & Helen Lang Prize for Excellence in Teaching; Assistant Professor of Chemistry Nicole Snyder received the Class of 1963 Excellence in Teaching Award; and Associate Professor of Africana Studies Angel David Nieves was honored with the John R. Hatch Excellence in Teaching Award.
In addition, Visiting Assistant Professor of History Christopher Hill received the Sidney Wertimer Award from Hamilton's Student Assembly. All were honored during the College's Class & Charter Day celebration, an annual convocation recognizing student and faculty excellence during the preceding academic year.
Douglas Weldon, The Samuel & Helen Lang Prize for Excellence in Teaching
Douglas Weldon received his Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo. His interests encompass the study of neuroscience, specifically the basis for attention in the brain, looking at head and body movements toward stimuli. Weldon is a recipient of the National Research Service Award from the National Institute of Mental Health. He has reviewed material for the National Science Foundation and Science magazine. Weldon’s areas of research include the developmental psychobiology of memory; the behavioral correlates of midbrain neuronal activity; and the cognitive neuroscience of visual spatial memory in humans. He has published numerous papers with Hamilton students in such journals as Behavioral Neuroscience, Society for Neuroscience, and Behavioural Brain Research.
In nominating Weldon for the Lang Prize, a student called him “the quintessential teacher (who) truly has an impact on his students.” A student noted, “In regards to Mr. Lang’s suggestion to ‘major in a great teacher’ I am lucky because my interest in neuroscience happened to guide me to the most influential teacher at Hamilton.” A nominator commented that Weldon “exemplified what it means to be not only a teacher, but a mentor and a positive influence to his students.”
Weldon is the 10th recipient of the Samuel & Helen Lang Prize for Excellence in Teaching, which is given annually to a senior, tenured faculty member. It is presented on the basis of superior teaching and for having a significant and positive impact on students. The fund was established by Helen Lang, the mother of Michael C. Lang, class of 1967.
Nicole Snyder, The Class of 1963 Excellence in Teaching Award
Nicole L. Snyder graduated with bachelor’s degrees in both chemistry and biology from Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pa. In 2005, she earned her Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut. Snyder joined the Hamilton faculty in 2007 after a two-year visiting assistant professorship at Wellesley College. Her current research interests involve the preparation and characterization of natural and unnatural carbohydrate systems that can be used to study antibiotic resistance and carbohydrate-mediated diseases. Snyder has published papers in Journal of Organic Chemistry, Carbohydrate Research, Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry, Tetrahedron and Tetrahedron Letters. She is a member of the American Chemical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, Sigma Xi and the Council on Undergraduate Research.
A student who nominated Snyder wrote “As a professor she teaches with confidence, enthusiasm and most importantly passion. In every lecture…she makes her students love the subject material and get as excited about it as she is.” Another student noted, “She fosters such a dynamic learning environment in which students are supportive of one another and work together. She’s dedicated to teaching undergrads and to developing the skills to do so effectively.” Another nominator wrote of Snyder’s community service. “She actively participates in a program called Science Saturdays in which students from Utica come to campus and learn about different areas of science.
The Class of 1963 Excellence in Teaching Award was established in 1988 by members of the class on the occasion of their 25th reunion to recognize one Hamilton faculty member each year who demonstrates extraordinary commitment to and skill in teaching.
Angel David Nieves, The John R. Hatch Excellence in Teaching Award
Angel David Nieves joined the Hamilton faculty in 2008 after teaching at the University of Maryland, College Park. He completed his doctoral work in architectural history and Africana Studies at Cornell University. Nieves’ book, ‘We Shall Independent Be:’ African American Place-Making and the Struggle to Claim Space in the U.S. (University Press of Colorado, June 2008), examines African American efforts to claim space in American society despite fierce resistance. He has published essays in the International Journal of Media and Cultural Politics, Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies and in several edited collections. His digital research and scholarship have also been featured on MSNBC.com and in Newsweek. He received national recognition at the 2009 Nebraska Digital Workshop in October for his work on Soweto ’76: A Living Digital Archive, from The Center for Digital Research in the Humanities (CDRH) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Nieves’ scholarly work and community-based activism critically engages with issues of memory, heritage preservation, gender and nationalism at the intersections of race and the built environment in cities across the Global South from New Orleans to Johannesburg, South Africa.
A student who nominated Nieves wrote, “His syllabus for any course he teaches is representative of his overall teaching style. Like his teaching in the classroom, it is brilliantly organized, fluid, interdisciplinary, extensive, challenging and contain excellent scholarship.” Another student called him “A passionate educator, impressive and committed scholar and caring mentor whose presence on campus truly makes Hamilton a better, smarter and more welcoming place.” A third wrote, “He understands the importance of having the entire community involved in the academe and how that can impact the community positively.”
The John R. Hatch Class of 1925 Excellence in Teaching Award was established in 1998 by Alfrederic S. Hatch, a 1958 Hamilton graduate, in memory of his father, who graduated from Hamilton in 1925. It supports an annual prize for a tenure-track faculty member who has been employed by the college for fewer than five years, and who has demonstrated superior teaching, high-quality scholarly research and a significant and positive impact on students.
Christopher Hill, The Sidney Wertimer Award
Christopher Hill, visiting professor in history, joined the faculty in 2006. He has a Ph.D. in medieval European history from the University of Texas at Austin. Hill earned master’s and bachelor’s degrees from the University of Colorado. His research focuses on the relationship between religion and law in the high middle ages and their impact on the development of the western legal tradition. He is currently working on a book about the bishop of London's role in the Thomas Becket conflict. He also occasionally reviews books for The Wall Street Journal.
Hamilton's Student Assembly initiated the Wertimer Award in 2005 in memory of the late Sidney Wertimer, professor of economics emeritus, who died in February, 2005. The award recognizes a faculty member "who is recognized as a mentor and active participant within the Hamilton community."