Texas Tech University

Celebrating the 2023 Jerry S. Rawls Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award Winners

There were 56 faculty and teaching assistants who were nominated for the 2023 awards.

Jacob Gordon  |  April 21, 2023

On April 20, 2023, Margaret L. Williams, dean of the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business, and Jerry S. Rawls presented the winners of the 2023 Jerry S. Rawls Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award.

This was the third year the awards were presented, and there were a total of 119 nominations across 56 faculty and teaching assistants.

“When we take teaching and learning to its ultimate conclusion, really what we're talking about is inspiration,” said Williams during the presentation.

Each year, two $20,000 awards go to full-time faculty and two $5,000 awards go to part-time instructors or doctoral students.

This year's winners include: Kristen Bigbee, senior lecturer of accounting; Ezgi Ottolenghi, assistant professor of finance; Nicholas Bergfeld, instructor of business administration; and Maria Sochi, doctoral student of finance.

“Today is a fun day for me,” said Mr. Rawls during the presentation. “All of the people we're recognizing are heroes. They have inspired students.”

It is those inspired students — current students and recent alumni (within the past two years) — who submit nominations for the Jerry S. Rawls Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award. That's what makes this award so special: it celebrates instructors whose impact on student learning was recognized by the students themselves.

Across all winners, each nomination discussed the ways the instructors created a thoughtful environment that allowed undergraduate students to thrive.

“[Bigbee] takes the time to go through the material in multiple ways to ensure that her students have an in-depth understanding of the concepts we went over and truly values their success,” wrote one nominator for Bigbee, who also went on to talk about the humor Bigbee would inject into her lecturers to keep students' attention.

“Dr. Ottolenghi also was very friendly during her office hours and gave substantial feedback,” wrote one of Ottolenghi's nominators. “She was someone I knew I could come forward with any question in her class to help me succeed.”

Many nominators also wrote about the ways the winners cared about the students as actual people with lives outside of class.

“[Sochi] also made students feel like there were no bad questions,” wrote one of Sochi's nominators. “Everyone felt comfortable coming to Professor Sochi with questions, and she was always open to helping her students work through struggles with content in order to succeed, inside and outside of class.”

“In the 5 years I was at TTU, I had not had another instructor who I remember helping me understand a course like [Bigbee],” wrote one of Bigbee's nominators.

What stood out about this year's winners was how similarly their lasting impact was felt by these students as the impact Mr. Rawls felt from his instructors. These winners exemplified the spirit of this award.

“Professor Bergfeld was one of my first teachers at Rawls and he left a great and lasting impression on me,” wrote Bergfeld's nominator. “He has also been of great assistance of connecting us with many resources both within and outside of Rawls to engage us in successful paths through college.”

“[Ottolenghi] is one professor that genuinely cared for the success of her students to carry the material learned in class to their respective professions,” wrote one of Ottolenghi's nominators. “Although I am currently in law school, I have not forgotten the material we learned in class and can apply it in the future.”

“[Bigbee] is an instructor who I will never forget,” wrote one of Bigbee's nominators. “She helped me many times and gave me advice when I needed it the most. In the five years I was at TTU, I never had another instructor who helped me understand a course like her.”

Nominations for the 2024 Jerry S. Rawls Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Awards will open in January of 2024. Learn more about the nomination process or view previous honorees.