The Jeffrey Katzer Professor of the Year award was established by former School of Information Studies (iSchool) faculty member and interim dean Jeffrey Katzer in 1995. Katzer believed that it was important for faculty to be recognized for superior teaching. Every year, the graduating undergraduate and graduate classes each select a full-time and part-time faculty member to be honored at the two Convocation ceremonies. Honors are based on students’ evaluation of excellence in teaching, engagement, and scholarship.

At the iSchool’s Convocation ceremonies on May 13, four faculty members were recognized by the graduating classes for their contributions to the School. Each faculty member receives an award, and full-time faculty honorees deliver a short speech to graduates.

Undergraduate Selections

Senior Norzom Lama introduced Professor Murali Venkatesh as the Jeffrey Katzer Professor of the Year award winner for undergraduate classes. In a short introduction, Lama thanked Venkatesh for “always emphasizing the differences that we as iSchool students can make in the world community.”

“One of the important lessons that I have learned from his class is that all of us have gained the distinctive element of professionalism: knowledge,” Lama continued. “It is because of professors like you who unconditionally share your knowledge that we can become independent and proud alumni of Syracuse University.

After Venkatesh accepted the award, he addressed the graduates, congratulating them on their achievements. 

“Technology is the most interesting and enchanting thing alive,” Venkatesh said. “Knowing something about technology is reward enough, but to actually get paid to do it, is incredible. It makes it even sweeter, as you are all about to find out.”

Venkatesh encouraged graduates to think about three things as they transitioned to their lives and careers after Syracuse.

“Take ethics seriously,” he advised. “It is ethics that prevents professionals from harming others by cutting corners to save money, or taking advantage of their status or power. Ask yourself, what ends are you advancing with your professional knowledge – are they ethical, do they promote human well being?”

Venkatesh also suggested that graduates think critically about technology. “You have a responsibility to ask the tough questions because you know technology.”

Finally, Venkatesh told graduates to embrace differences. “Work to make technology a welcome field for all, we need more women. Technology that is not designed inclusively is always worse than it could be.”

Venkatesh left the graduates with one last question to consider as he closed his address, “how can I use my professional skills to make the world a better place?”

Senior Diana Correia introduced the part-time professor of the year award. That award was given to adjunct professor Alexander Corsello.

Correia said that she felt lucky to have taken two classes from Corsello during her undergraduate career.

“Professor Corsello has always been honest with us about employment in corporate America, taken from his own life experiences,” Correia said. “He is an invaluable resource to students and to the iSchool, and I thank him for sharing his outside experiences in the classroom with us.”

Graduate Selections

Graduating Information Management master’s student Joe Brusa announced Assistant Professor Jeff Hemsley as the winner of the Jeffrey Katzer Professor of the Year award for graduate-level classes.

“When I received the e-mail asking for my vote for professor of the year, I immediately thought of Professor Hemsley,” Brusa said in his introduction. “The first thing I wrote in my comments was that he made learning fun.” 

Brusa also shared some comments provided by his classmates, noting that Hemsley has been, “knowledgeable, helpful, encouraging and dedicated, and knew how to energize the students with his passion for data visualization.”

Hemsley began his address to graduates and their guests by thanking the students for selecting him for the award. 

“I’m honored to receive the award, and I’m honored to have the opportunity to address my former students, and especially your parents,” Hemsley said, “some of whom have traveled thousands of miles to be here.”

Hemsley continued to explain to the audience some of the background on the class he teaches at the iSchool, Information Visualization.

“In this class, students learn how to use data visualization techniques to find and tell the story that lurks in big data sets,” he explained. “Students learn how to program in a language called R, they learn how to use R to work with and explore data visually, and they learn how to use tools like Adobe Illustrator to put it all together.” 

As Hemsley explained his coursework, examples of data visualization projects, and students presenting these projects, were displayed on the screen behind him.

“At the end of semester poster sessions we hold, the place is buzzing, and crowded with students from all of the classes showing their posters – and you’re beaming,” Hemsley exclaimed. “You’ve outdone yourselves, I see that you are proud of your work, you know your data and you tell a great story – visually you have created something impactful. That is what makes this job rewarding, and that’s why I get up in the morning.”

“As a teacher, I get to see your face go from confusion and frustration to that ‘a-ha’ moment when you get it,” Hemsley continued, “and I think that maybe I made a difference.”

The part-time professor of the year award was introduced by Divisha Manral, a graduate in the Information Management master’s program. As she called adjunct professor Mark Borte to the podium, Manral recalled that “when we walked into Professor Borte’s class, little did we know that we would find a mentor and collegial advisor in a professor. He brought us not only a step closer to earning a degree, but also to a fulfilling career ahead.” 

“It was a pleasure to attend his lectures,” Manral said, “And I’d like to thank him for his commitment in helping us grow as individuals.”