2024 MacVicar Faculty Fellows named

April 30, 2024

Four outstanding undergraduate teachers and mentors have been named MacVicar Faculty Fellows: professor of electrical engineering and computer science (EECS) Karl Berggren, professor of political science Andrea Campbell, associate professor of music Emily Richmond Pollock, and professor of EECS Vinod Vaikuntanathan. For more than 30 years, the MacVicar Faculty Fellows Program has recognized exemplary and sustained contributions to undergraduate education at MIT. He regularly teaches undergraduate EECS offerings including 6.2000, formerly 6.002 (Electrical Circuits), and 6.3400, formerly 6.02 (Introduction to EECS via Communication Networks). Tomás Palacios, professor of EECS, says, “Professor Berggren is genuinely interested in continuously improving the educational experience of our students. She joined MIT’s Department of Political Science in 2005 and is currently the Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor of Political Science and director of undergraduate studies.

Four outstanding undergraduate teachers and mentors have been named MacVicar Faculty Fellows: professor of electrical engineering and computer science (EECS) Karl Berggren, professor of political science Andrea Campbell, associate professor of music Emily Richmond Pollock, and professor of EECS Vinod Vaikuntanathan.

For more than 30 years, the MacVicar Faculty Fellows Program has recognized exemplary and sustained contributions to undergraduate education at MIT. The program is named in honor of Margaret MacVicar, MIT’s first dean for undergraduate education and founder of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP).

New fellows are chosen each year through a highly competitive nomination process. They receive an annual stipend and are appointed to a 10-year term. Nominations, including letters of support from colleagues, students, and alumni, are reviewed by an advisory committee led by vice chancellor Ian Waitz with final selections made by provost Cynthia Barnhart.

Role models both in and out of the classroom, Berggren, Campbell, Pollock, and Vaikuntanathan join an elite academy of scholars from across the Institute who are committed to curricular innovation; exceptional teaching; collaboration with colleagues; and supporting students through mentorship, leadership, and advising.

Karl Berggren

“It is a great honor to have been selected for this fellowship. It has particularly made me remember the years of dedicated mentoring and support that I’ve received from my colleagues,” says Karl Berggren. “I’ve also learned a great deal over this period from our students by way of their efforts and thoughtful feedback. MIT continuously strives for excellence in undergraduate education, and I feel very lucky to have been part of that effort.”

Karl Berggren is the Joseph F. and Nancy P. Keithley Professor in the Department of EECS. He received his PhD from Harvard University and his BA in physics from Harvard College. Berggren joined MIT in 1996 as a staff member at Lincoln Laboratory before becoming an assistant professor in 2003. He regularly teaches undergraduate EECS offerings including 6.2000, formerly 6.002 (Electrical Circuits), and 6.3400, formerly 6.02 (Introduction to EECS via Communication Networks).

Sahil Pontula ’23 writes, “Professor Berggren turned 6.002 from a mere course requirement into a truly memorable experience that shaped my current research interests and provided a unique perspective … He is devoted not just to educating the next generation of engineers, but also to imbuing in them interdisciplinary problem-solving perspectives that push the frontiers of science forward.”

MacVicar Fellow and professor of EECS Jeffrey Lang notes, “His lectures are polished, presented with humor, and well-appreciated by his students.” Senior Tiffany Louie adds: “He connects with us, inspires us, and welcomes us to ask questions in class and in the greater electrical engineering field.”

Berggren is also deeply invested in the art and science of teaching. Tomás Palacios, professor of EECS, says, “Professor Berggren is genuinely interested in continuously improving the educational experience of our students. He approaches this in the same methodological and quantitative way we typically approach research. He is well-versed in the most modern theories about learning and he is always happy to share … relevant books and papers on the subject.”

Lang agrees, noting that Berggren “reads articles and books that examine and discuss how learning occurs so that he can become a more effective teacher.” He goes on to recall a conversation in which Berggren explained a new form of homework grading. Instead of reducing grades for errors that did not render an obviously flawed result, he helps students extract key takeaways from their assignments and come to correct solutions on their own. Lang notes that a key benefit of this approach is that it allows graders to “work much more quickly yet carefully” and “provides them more time to spend on giving helpful feedback.”

Adding to his long list of contributions, Berggren also oversees the EECS teaching labs. Since assuming this role, he has pursued changes to ensure that students feel comfortable and confident using the space for both coursework and outside projects, developing their critical thinking and hands-on skills.

Faculty head and professor of electrical engineering Joel Voldman applauds Berggren’s efforts: “Since [he] has taken over, the labs are now a place for projects of all sorts, with students being trained on various processes, parts being easy to obtain, equipment readily available … His fundamental mantra has been to make a space that serves students, meets them where they’re at, and helps them get to where they want to go.”

Andrea Campbell

Andrea Campbell received her BA in social studies from Harvard University and her MA and PhD in political science from the University of California at Berkeley. She joined MIT’s Department of Political Science in 2005 and is currently the Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor of Political Science and director of undergraduate studies.

Professor Campbell regularly teaches classes 17.30 (Making Public Policy), 17.315 (Health Policy), and 17.317 (U.S. Social Policy). Her research examines the relationships between public policies, public opinion, and political behavior.

A unique aspect of Campbell’s teaching style is the personal approach she brings. In 17.315, Campbell shared her own experiences following a tragic accident in her family, which highlighted the real-life challenges that many face navigating America’s health care system.

According to David Singer, department head and the Raphael Dorman-Helen Starbuck Professor of Political Science, Campbell “weaves personal experience into her teaching in powerful ways … Her openness about her experience permits students to share their own … thereby strengthening their own engagement with the material.”

Singer goes on to say, “In all of her classes, [she] encourages students to examine policymaking not as a technocratic exercise, or an exercise of optimization, but rather as a process infused with politics. In steering her pedagogy in this way, she shows her students how to understand the identity and interests of different groups in society, where their relative power emanates from, and how the rules and institutions of the U.S. political system shape policy outcomes on critical issues like LGBTQ rights, gun control, military intervention, and health care.”

Students say her classes are incredibly impactful, lingering with them for years to come. Her former teaching assistant, now Harvard professor, Justin de Benedictus-Kessner wrote, “Andrea’s talents have been an enormous asset … I have seen how many of her former undergraduate students have gone on to successful careers adjacent to her field of public policy in large part because of her inspiration.” Echoing this sentiment, Julia H. Ginder ’19 writes, “her lessons and mentorship have impacted my day-to-day life and career trajectory even five years after graduation.”

Campbell’s work set the stage for wide-ranging improvements to the Course 17 curriculum and under her leadership, public policy has become the most popular minor in the department. Singer writes, “She ensures that required classes in political institutions, economics, and substantive policy areas are regularly taught, and she proselytizes … to students about the importance of understanding policymaking, especially to [those] in engineering and sciences who might otherwise overlook this critically important domain.”

Campbell is heavily involved with undergraduate advising at the department, school, and Institute levels. She is a popular sponsor of UROPs and attracts many undergraduate researchers each year. Campbell is also co-chair of the Gender Equity Committee in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS) and the Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement (SOCR).

“It is clear that Andrea takes undergraduate teaching extraordinarily seriously, not just when designing her own classes, but when leading the undergraduate program in our department,” says Adam Berinsky, the Mitsui Professor of Political Science.

Beyond her many pedagogical and curricular accomplishments, Singer notes: “Andrea’s students consistently tout her extraordinary degree of personal engagement. She takes the time to get to know students, to mentor them outside the classroom, and to keep them energized in the classroom. Many express gratitude for Andrea’s willingness to go the extra mile — by staying late after class, holding extra office hours, and even inviting students to her home for Thanksgiving dinner.”

On receiving this award Campbell writes, “I am so grateful to my colleagues and students for taking the time to nominate me and so honored to be selected. Teaching and mentoring MIT students is such a joy. I am well aware that some students come through my door just to fulfill a requirement. Others come with genuine enthusiasm and interest. Either way, I love watching them discover how fascinating political science is and how relevant politics and policymaking are for their lives and their futures.”

Emily Richmond Pollock

“I am truly thrilled to become a MacVicar Faculty Fellow. Working with the undergraduates at MIT is such a gift in itself. When I teach, I can only strive to match the students’ creativity and commitment with my own,” says Emily Richmond Pollock.

Pollock joined MIT’s faculty in 2012. She received her BA in music from Harvard University in 2006 and her MA and PhD in music history and literature from the University of California at Berkeley in 2008 and 2012. She was awarded MIT’s Arthur C. Smith Award for meaningful contributions and devotion to undergraduate student life and learning in 2019 and the James A. and Ruth Levitan Teaching Award from the SHASS in 2020. She currently serves on the SOCR, the Subcommittee on the HASS requirements, and is the inaugural undergraduate chair in the SHASS.

Pollock is a dedicated mentor and advisor and testimonials highlight her commitment to student well-being and intellectual development. “Professor Emily Richmond Pollock is a kind, intentional, and dedicated teacher and advisor,” says senior Katherine Reisig. “By fostering such a welcoming community, she helps the MIT music department be a better place. It is clear … [she] cares deeply about her students, not only that we are doing well academically, but also that we are succeeding in life and doing well mentally.”

MacVicar Faculty Fellow and associate professor of literature Marah Gubar agrees: “Emily has long served as a role model for how to support the ‘whole student’ in ways that build community, right wrongs, and infuse more humanity and beauty into our campus.”

MIT colleagues and students praise Pollock’s extensive contributions to curriculum development at the introductory and advanced levels. She regularly teaches class 21M.011 (Introduction to Western Music) and courses on opera, symphonic repertoire, and the advanced seminar for music majors. Her lectures provide lively learning experiences in which her students are encouraged to think critically about music and culture, dive into unfamiliar operas with curiosity, and compare dramatic elements across time periods.

“I came away from 21M.011 not only with a better understanding of Western music, but with new curiosities and questions about music’s role in the world. Professor Pollock’s teaching made me want to learn more  it encouraged lifelong discovery, curiosity, and education,” Reisig says.

Associate professor of music and MacVicar Faculty Fellow Patricia Tang writes, “Professor Pollock continues to grow as a leader in pedagogical innovation, transforming the music history curriculum and being a true inspiration to her colleagues in her devotion to her students. Though these subjects existed in the course catalog before Pollock’s arrival, in all cases she has radically transformed them, infusing new energy and excitement into the curriculum.”

Pollock also champions issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the arts and is dedicated to making classical music and opera more accessible while maintaining the intellectual prestige applauded by students. She encourages students to embrace lesser-known works and step outside their comfort zone, even taking students to the opera herself. She has a “strong interest in anti-racist pedagogies and decolonizing music curriculum … [her] pedagogical innovations are numerous,” Tang observes.

About her impact as an advisor, Tang notes: “Professor Pollock genuinely loves getting to know her students … it is really her ‘superpower.’ It is her mission to make sure [they] are not just surviving but thriving in their first year.”

Senior Hana Ro agrees: “Under her guidance, my academic journey has been transformed, and I have gained not only a profound understanding of [this] subject matter but also a sense of belonging and encouragement that has been invaluable during my time at MIT.”

Furthermore, Pollock ensures that students never feel isolated or alone. Graduate student Frederick Ajisafe says, “If she knew that a cohort was taking a demanding class, she would check in with us … In all cases, Emily emphasized her belief in our ability to succeed and her willingness to help us get there.”

Vinod Vaikuntanathan

Vinod Vaikuntanathan is a professor in the Department of EECS. He received his bachelor’s degree in computer science from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras in 2003 and his SM and PhD degrees in computer science from MIT in 2005 and 2009. Vaikuntanathan joined the faculty in 2013 and in recognition of his contributions to teaching and service to students, he received the Harold E. Edgerton Faculty Achievement Award in 2017 and the Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2016.

Vaikuntanathan has taught all three EECS undergraduate theoretical computer science subjects including 6.1210, formerly 6.006 (Introduction to Algorithms); 6.1200, formerly 6.042 (Mathematics for Computer Science); and 6.1220, formerly 6.046 (Design and Analysis of Algorithms).

Students say his classes are challenging, yet approachable and inclusive. Helen Propson ’24 writes, “He excels at making complex subjects like cryptography accessible and captivating for all students, creating an atmosphere where every student’s input is highly regarded. He embraces questions and leaves students feeling inspired and motivated to tackle challenging problems, fostering a sense of confidence and a belief in their own abilities.” She goes on to say, “He often describes intricate concepts as ‘magical,’ and his enthusiasm is contagious, making the material come alive in the classroom.”

MIT alumna Anne Kim concurs: “His teaching style is characterized by its clarity, enthusiasm, and a genuine passion for the subject matter. In his classes, he managed to distill complex algorithms into digestible concepts, making the material accessible to students with varying levels of expertise.”

Vaikuntanathan has also made significant contributions to the EECS curriculum. In spring 2022, he, along with fellow professors in the department, led an effort to improve 6.046. According to professor of EECS and MacVicar Fellow Srini Devadas, “designing a new lecture for 6.046 is not easy. Each new lecture is, typically, days of prep work, including preparing to … give the lecture itself and writing and testing problem set questions, quiz questions, and quiz practice questions. Vinod did all this with skill, aplomb, and enthusiasm. His contributions have had a permanent and beneficial effect on 6.046.”

Widely known for his work in cryptography, including homomorphic encryption and computational complexity, Vaikuntanathan became the lecturer-in-charge of the department’s first theoretical cryptography offering, 6.875. In addition, as the fields of quantum and post-quantum cryptography have grown, “Vinod has added relevant modules to the syllabus, taking the place of topics which had grown obsolete,” Devadas remarks. “Some professors might see teaching the same class multiple times as a chance to save themselves work by reusing the same materials. Vinod sees teaching 6.875 every fall as an opportunity to keep improving the class.”

Vinod Vaikuntanathan is also a devoted mentor and advisor, assisting with first-year UROPs and encouraging students to take advantage of his “open-door” policy. Kim writes that Professor Vaikuntanathan is benefiting her career still as “his mentorship ... extends beyond the classroom through his research” and that he “has mentored and advised dozens of [her] friends in the cryptography space.”

“His encouraging demeanor sets a remarkable example of the kind of teacher every student hopes to encounter during their academic career,” says Propson.

On becoming a MacVicar Faculty Fellow Vaikuntanathan writes, “It is humbling to be in the company of such amazing teachers and mentors, many of whom I have come to think of as my role models. Many thanks to my colleagues and my students for considering me worthy of this honor.”

The source of this news is from Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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