Jovanova and Sybert Receive Woods Award for Outstanding Graduate Teaching

The award will be presented at Annenberg’s Ph.D. graduation ceremony on May 16.

By Julie Sloane

Doctoral students Mia Jovanova and Jeanna Sybert have been named co-recipients of the 2022 James D. Woods Award, and will receive the award at Annenberg’s Ph.D./M.A. Graduation Ceremony on May 16. 

Given in memory of Annenberg graduate student James D. Woods, the award is granted to an outstanding graduate teaching assistant.

Mia Jovanova
Mia Jovanova

Doctoral student Mia Jovanova is a member of the Communication Neuroscience Lab, and studies neural mechanisms underlying health behavior change. As a Teaching Fellow for NETS 112: Networked Life, her responsiveness, constructiveness, and compassion earned her a nomination from Professor Duncan Watts.

With 110 students in the class, which took place last fall amid a spike in Omicron COVID cases, Watts was grateful for and impressed by Jovanova’s responsiveness in arranging special accommodations for students navigating illness. As a senior TA, she was responsible for supervising six undergraduate TAs. In addition to typical TF duties like holding office hours and exam review sessions, she also helped Watts draft homework assignments, the midterm, and the final exams. 

“She was always there to help craft a response, suggest a workable solution, and to remind me to err on the side of generosity,” said Watts, Stevens University Professor and twenty-third Penn Integrates Knowledge University Professor. “I can’t tell you how grateful I am for her help, and I’m not sure how I would have done it without her.”

Jeanna Sybert
Jeanna Sybert

The second award recipient, Doctoral Candidate Jeanna Sybert, studies the workings of U.S. journalism, digital culture, and visual communication, and what the intersections of these reveal about contemporary public discourse and culture. As a Teaching Fellow for COMM 123 (now 1230): Critical Theories of Popular Culture, her energizing presence and deep engagement with the lecture material led Professor Jessa Lingel to nominate her for the award.

While sitting in on Sybert’s recitation, Lingel was struck by her use of humor to engage students, her tech savviness in using things like instant polls to set an upbeat environment (while also serving as a way to take attendance), and her high degree of preparation to translate lecture material into engaging collective discussion for the class. As a result, Sybert will also be teaching COMM 123 on her own this summer.

“Classrooms are more fun, more energized and more equitable when Jeanna is around,” said Lingel. “She has a gift for connecting with and advocating for students, she’s fair but generous, and she brings a wonderful amount of energy to the classroom.”