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Honors and Awards

Professor Ilya Mikhelson Honored with University Teaching Award

Annual award recognizes faculty who demonstrate excellence in undergraduate teaching

Northwestern Engineering’s Ilya Mikhelson is being honored with a 2024 University Teaching Award. The annual recognition is given to professors who demonstrate excellence and innovation in undergraduate teaching.

“These amazing individuals remind us of the huge impact faculty can make on our students’ lives — not only while they are at Northwestern, but long after they've graduated,” Provost Kathleen Hagerty said. “I am so proud of each of them and grateful for their talent and dedication to the success of our students.”

Ilya Mikhelson

Charles Deering McCormick Distinguished Professor of Instruction

Ilya MikhelsonIlya Mikhelson uses two words to summarize his teaching objectives and philosophy: “empowerment” and “accessibility.” From his earliest days of teaching, he has sought ways to ensure his students walk away from his courses “less afraid to tackle whatever obstacles lie before them, and for everyone in the class to have equal access to these teachings.” As such, he has continuously evolved his approaches to presenting material. This started with handwriting his notes during class alongside his students to ensure no one would be left behind and evolved into posting all of his lectures on YouTube to make them accessible at any time. In aggregate, his instructional videos have more than 3 million views.

Mikhelson’s innovative approaches put his students on the right path from their first days at Northwestern.

According to Randall Berry, John A. Dever Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the course that accounts for Mikhelson’s broadest educational impact is Gen. Eng. 205-1: Engineering Analysis I, which is required for all students in the McCormick School of Engineering and is typically taken in fall of their first year. As the lead instructor of this course in recent years, Berry says Mikhelson “directly impacts the education of every McCormick undergraduate student, at the very beginning of their studies.”

Echoing the many students who praise Mikhelson for going out of his way to make complex subject matter palatable, one graduate called Mikhelson "an amazing professor who always makes learning accessible and fun, constantly encourages students to delve deeper and challenge themselves, and truly cares about the success of his students.”

Mikhelson is an associate professor of instruction in electrical and computer engineering at Northwestern Engineering.

This year’s recipients also include Masi Asare, assistant professor of theatre at Northwestern’s School of Communication; Barbara Butts, associate professor of instruction in theatre management at the School of Communication; Mei-Ling Hopgood, William F. Thomas Professor of Journalism in the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications; and Cynthia Nazarian associate professor of French in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

The five recipients were nominated by the deans of the schools or colleges in which they have principal appointments. Honorees were selected by a committee chaired by the provost and made up of senior faculty members, University administrators and a student representative.

“I’m delighted we are honoring these five faculty members who show such tremendous passion and commitment for teaching,” said Miriam Sherin, associate provost for undergraduate education. “Their use of innovative and inclusive practices highlights the best of undergraduate teaching at Northwestern.”

The award includes a salary stipend for the next three years as well as funds for professional development. The term begins at the start of the 2024-2025 academic year.

The awards ceremony is scheduled for Wednesday, May 22, in Guild Lounge on the Evanston campus. The event will be livestreamed.