Sociology Graduate Students receive Teaching Assistant Awards

Three Sociology graduate students have been selected as recipients of the 2021 Campus-Wide Teaching Assistant Awards to recognize their excellence of teaching in lecture halls, classrooms, and labs on campus or leading learning opportunities in the wider community. Congratulations to Soyun Park, Kurt W. Kuehne, and Kerem Morgül!

Soyun Park was awarded the Early Excellence in Teaching Award which recognizes outstanding and inspirational performance on the part of TAs with fewer than four semesters of teaching experience. Soyun’s studies focus on work, organizations, and economic sociology.  She is particularly interested in factors that explain labor market inequality, specifically examining how parenthood and parental leave policies lead to different labor market outcomes. While at UW, Soyun has enjoyed being a TA for courses within the Department of Sociology, specifically Statistics for Sociologists II and III. Soyun believes there are three major parts to the way she leads a classroom. “My teaching philosophy focuses on creating an inclusive and safe environment to help students at all stages, teaching in an engaging and relatable way so that students can build a bridge between scholarship and everyday experiences, and finally instilling excitement by extending my positive energy to them,” she said. This philosophy, Soyun noted, has been affected by teaching in the era of COVID-19. “As I started teaching during the pandemic, the physical and emotional isolation influenced my teaching philosophy,” she said. “I tried to place extra care into letting students know that I was always there for them and providing various channels to maintain contact throughout the semester.”


Kurt W. Kuehne and Kerem Morgül were each awarded the Capstone PhD Teaching Award.  This recognizes TAs who have performed as outstanding teachers throughout their UW–Madison tenure. This category honors TAs who are dissertators at the end of their graduate program and planning to defend their dissertations by the end of the academic year.

Kurt W. Kuehne is a PhD student in the Department of Sociology, focusing on transnational migration, precarious labor, and urban sociology. His primary research project examines migration and labor policies in Southeast Asia.While at UW, Kurt has taught courses within the Department of Sociology on topics such as American Society as well as for the Letters & Science Career Initiative in courses that prepare students to enter the workforce with confidence. He also loves teaching teachers; he has trained new TAs and has helped TAs prepare for the transition to remote instruction.

“Each day I engage with students who are hungry to make a positive difference in this world,” said Kurt. “My goal is to help each student chart an individual path to do exactly that. As a philosophy, I embrace pedagogical transparency and flexibility. Whenever possible, I seek student input and affirmation for our classroom objectives. When undergraduates have a voice in their own learning, and feel that they too are responsible for the quality of the classroom community, they rise to that challenge in remarkable ways. I always strive to foster a democratic, engaged, and collaborative learning environment that connects directly to students’ personal and professional goals.”


photo of Kerem MorgulKerem Morgül is a political and cultural sociologist who studies populist politics, nationalism, and international migrants’ reception by and integration into their host communities. His dissertation investigates the official discourse on and public attitudes toward Syrian refugees in Turkey within the context of a populist and civilizationist “Muslim nation” project championed by President Erdoğan — a project that elevates Islam as the core element of Turkish national identity and promotes a neo-imperial vision of Turkey as the natural leader of Muslims, particularly in former Ottoman territories.

Kerem has taught a wide range of classes at UW–Madison, including Sociology of Race and Ethnicity in the United States, Criminal Justice in America, Methods of Sociological Inquiry, and Statistics for Sociologists I.

“My teaching has three overarching goals,” said Kerem. “One, to help students cultivate sociological imagination so that they can situate individual experiences within their institutional and socio-historical contexts; two, to teach students how social scientists produce knowledge so that they can critically evaluate published research; and three, to enhance students’ cultural competence so that they can successfully participate in a diverse and multicultural society.”

To achieve these goals, Kerem draws on active and experiential learning strategies and combines them with inclusive teaching practices. “Over the years, I have learned that effective teaching depends largely on building an inclusive learning community in which all participants feel valued and are able to openly discuss their views in a manner that is respectful of their peers’ ideas and backgrounds. Hence in my classes, I spend a good deal of time and effort to reduce anonymity among students through ice-breakers, small group activities, and student-led discussions. I also establish ground rules for having a productive conversation on controversial topics, encouraging students to see disagreements as an opportunity to learn about different perspectives.”

Additional information about the other campus Teaching Assistant winners can be found here.