Graduate Student Abigail Letak Awarded Capstone PhD Teaching Award

2022-23 Teaching Assistant Award winners demonstrate educational excellence

Twenty-one outstanding graduate students have been selected as recipients of the 2022-23 UW–Madison Campus-Wide Teaching Assistant Awards, recognizing their excellence in teaching. Abigail was awarded one of 5 Capstone PhD Teaching Awards for this academic year.

UW–Madison employs over 2,300 teaching assistants (TAs) across a wide range of disciplines. Their contributions to the classroom, lab, and field are essential to the university’s educational mission. To recognize the excellence of TAs across campus, the Graduate School, the College of Letters & Science (L&S), and the Morgridge Center sponsor these annual awards.

Abigail is a PhD candidate in Sociology whose work focuses on cultural influences on wellness and identity. Her dissertation is specifically about the intersections of mental health, self-care, disability, and neoliberalism.

She has taught multiple sociology courses as both a TA and Instructor of Record, including introductory courses and electives, such as The Sociological Enterprise and Introductory Social Psychology. She also designed and taught a new elective called The Sociology of Mental Health.

“In my time at UW–Madison, I have learned that effective teaching is not innate, but truly a cultivated skill that requires training, attention to best practices, and personal reflection. Only through such concerted effort have I been able to develop a teaching practice focused on inclusivity, accessibility, and empathy,” Abigail said. “I aim to facilitate learning that allows students to see class time and schoolwork not as separate from—but important components of—’real life.’ To support students, I practice an ethic of care fundamentally based on seeing them holistically as ‘human beings, not human doings.’ As a TA in the Writing Center, I focus on increasing students’ confidence as writers and providing them with tangible tools to use in the writing process.”