Proust, Smith, and Truss Win 2024 James D. Woods Award

The award recognizes Annenberg graduate students for outstanding teaching.

By Hailey Reissman

Doctoral students Valentina Proust, Taylor Smith and Azsaneé Truss have been named co-recipients of the 2024 James D. Woods Award.

Valentina Proust
Valentina Proust

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

Valentina Proust was nominated for the award by Senior Lecturer Kim Woolf for her work as a Teaching Fellow for Woolf’s class COMM 2250: Children and Media.

Woolf praised Proust’s exceptional organizational skills, detailed and constructive feedback to students, and creative teaching style.

“Valentina’s guest lecture on gender and media was exceptional,” Woolf said. “She listened carefully to students’ thoughts regarding the material and handled questions confidently."

Taylor Smith
Taylor Smith

Proust studies collective memory and identity as tools to challenge dominant narratives around gender issues within the Global South.

Taylor Smith was also nominated by Woolf for her work as a Teaching Fellow for COMM 2250.

Woolf commended Smith’s dedication to helping students during office hours, her constructive feedback, and her clear and engaging teaching.

“What makes Taylor stand out as a teacher is her commitment to her students and her ability to empathize with the undergraduates while continuing to challenge them,” Woolf said. “At least two students mentioned to me that meeting with Taylor enabled them to better understand the material and apply both developmental and media theory to content.”

In her own research, Smith explores Black women’s unique contributions to Black textual and visual literacies. 

Azsaneé Truss
Azsaneé Truss

As a Teaching Fellow for COMM 2640: “Media Culture & Society in Contemporary China,” doctoral candidate Azsaneé Truss’s rapport with students, enthusiasm, and dedication to teaching earned her a nomination from Professor Guobin Yang.

“It was a big class with 75 enrolled students. Azsaneé always came to class with infectious energy and very soon became beloved by the students,” Yang says. “I would count Azsaneé as one of the top teaching fellows I have had in my decade of teaching at Penn.”

Truss’s research focuses on Black feminism and how it connects with different forms of expression, drawing from fields like cultural studies, performance studies, critical media studies, and Black studies.

Proust, Smith, and Truss will receive the award at Annenberg’s Ph.D./M.A. Graduation Ceremony on May 24.