This year, 374 Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs) were recipients of the Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor (OGSI) Award, and were recognized for their exemplary teaching by the Graduate Division’s GSI Teaching & Resource Center. Due to the cancellation of the annual Outstanding GSI Award ceremony in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, departments were asked to find alternative ways to congratulate these outstanding instructors.

Each OGSI is nominated by faculty based on criteria such as overall effectiveness as an instructor, capacity to promote critical thinking, and utilization of pedagogically effective approaches. Departmental committees then review end-of-semester evaluations of GSIs given by undergraduate students. Certain departments may ask nominees to submit supplemental teaching materials, and others consider classroom observations made by faculty in their decision-making. 

Here we highlight a few of the recipients, and some kudos from faculty and students, by department: 

 Nitoshia Ford

Nitoshia Ford, African American Studies

Faculty said: 

“Nitoshia is acutely aware of how dialogue is passed down and how that shapes people’s understanding. With that she lets the class lead the discussion entirely and chimes in to ask thought-provoking questions as well as clarify things that are misunderstood.”

Students said: 

“I like the way she emphasizes critical thinking rather than correctness in class discussions.”

“Her authenticity makes the material very real and she is very good at bringing in other material to further understand things from lecture.”

Brandon Bloomer

Brandon Bloomer, Chemistry

“Brandon’s passion for the subject and for teaching are clear every day. He goes out of his way to help students by offering extra hours and encouraging questions over e–mail, to which he frequently responds with helpful comments in less than an hour. His sense of humor helped make a challenging class fun. Brandon also made an effort to learn the names of everyone in the class. Before I had introduced myself, he already knew my name and had an idea of how I was doing in the class.”

Kristen Gardner

Kristen Gardner, Chemistry

Faculty said:

“The unflappable way in which [Kristen] approached the unruly task of teaching made her seem like a well seasoned veteran. She was a respectful and productive attendee at our GSI meetings–speaking up when she had a question, but always making room for the voices of others and helping the conversation move along when she did not–gleaning the information she needed in a uniquely efficient manner. In a class almost entirely populated by students who are extremely anxious about their grades, Kristen’s calm, authoritative presence was a true asset in the laboratory setting in particular. Nothing ever goes perfectly in undergraduate laboratory courses, but the students in Kristen’s section learned to look past small procedural hiccups to the underlying learning objective of each experiment. I could always trust that Kristen’s students were learning and growing with little to no oversight on my part, and as an instructor, this is an incredible gift.”

Natalia Duong

Natalia Duong, Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies

Faculty said: 

“Natalia was very clear about what she was looking for in the essay and did a nice job of explaining exactly how the essay assignment related to the larger objectives of the class and the larger topics of class discussion. She also did a great job of helping students to set smaller goals toward the larger goals of writing a paper, giving them strategies to attack these tasks without getting overwhelmed.”

“Another important role Natalia and [the 2nd GSI] provided was a strong contribution to shaping both the midterm and the final. I relied on them to make sure we covered the breadth of topics for lecture and readings in our exams. Natalia, [2nd GSI], and I all shared on the grading and I relied on them to establish a grading system. “

Students said: 

“Natalia did a really great job at leading the activities, discussions, and bringing us into deeper discussions of the plays. She’s also very approachable and friendly and it’s always nice to talk to her. “

“She also challenged my thinking and always opened the space for there to be questions asked. She was very enthusiastic and passionate.”

Katherine Oosterbaan

Katherine Oosterbaan, Chemistry

Students said: 

“Katherine legitimately provided my entire understanding of physical chemistry”


Zachary Bekowies, Italian Studies

Students said: 

“Zack has been one of the best GSIs I’ve had at Berkeley so far! It’s obvious that he puts a lot of effort into teaching our section and that he cares a lot about his students.”

“I don’t think I would’ve loved Italian class as much as I do if it weren’t for Zack. Right off the bat, Zack was warm and helpful and he always came prepared and with a positive attitude. Thank you for making the material engaging and for truly making my last semester a great one!”

For the full list of the award recipients, visit this link. Congratulations to all of this year’s OGSIs! 

About the Author: Ashvini Malshe is a Master’s student in the Graduate School of Journalism, and a Professional Development Liaison with the Graduate Division.