Campus News

The Department of Population and Public Health Sciences Launches its Inaugural Faculty Awards

Bokie Muigai August 24, 2023
group of faculty award winners headshots

The Teaching Excellence and Pedagogical Innovation Awards Committee presented its first faculty awards in recognition of excellence in teaching. The inaugural cohort received their certificates on August 19, 2023, from Flora L. Thornton Chair of the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences Howard Hu, and Vice Chair of Education Roberta McKean-Cowdin. The committee chaired by Ans Irfan, MD, EdD, DrPH, ScD, MPH, MRPL, acknowledged the exceptional commitment of faculty members to provide an inspiring and transformative impact on student’s learning and academic environment.

“Public health academy has largely abdicated its responsibility to teach and train the next generation of inspirational leaders,” critics Irfan. “This reality reflects in the many incentive and prestige structures within the academy. We must extend this critique and acknowledge this reality so we can hold ourselves accountable while uplifting exceptional model educators such as these inaugural awardees. I am deeply grateful to be a part of a department, led by a forward-thinking leader, Dr. Hu, who recognizes the critical importance of teaching, that is striving to break free from this status quo and materially invest in public health education. These teaching awards serve as one of the mechanisms to affirm our commitment to the teaching mission and recognizing the incredibly thoughtful, creative and impactful teaching leadership which will no doubt inspire others.”

There are two categories of recognition. The Inclusive Pedagogical Excellence Award recognizes faculty who embody the spirit of inclusiveness and antiracist pedagogical approaches who actively seeks to challenge and dismantle racism and racial disparities within the learning environment. While, the Chair’s Citation on Pedagogical Excellence Award recognizes one faculty member in each division who has shown excellence across a wide-range of inclusive pedagogical excellence criteria. Recipients demonstrated excellence in at least three of five criteria listed below.

Congratulations to the 2023 Teaching Award Recipients:

Inclusive Pedagogical Excellence Award Recipient

Heather Wipfli, PhD

HP 365: Culture, Lifestyle, and Health

“I personally approach my students with humility and openness. I recognize my own identity in the class, as well as some of my past and present professional practice within global health that can lead to critiques of white saviorism.”

Pictured from left: Roberta McKean Cowdin, PhD, Heather Wipfli, PhD, Howard Hu, MD, MPH, ScD. (Photo/USC)

Chair’s Citation on Pedagogical Excellence Award Recipients

Rachel Carmen Ceasar, PhD

PM587: Qualitative Research Methods

“Discussions are based on current events in public health (e.g., how “addiction” is written about in the media during the opioid crisis, a revisiting of the Tuskegee syphilis study through a podcast on how people still refute any harm today, video challenging acculturation in Latinx populations).”

Mellissa Withers, PhD, MHS

PM 568: Ethical Issues in Global Health

PM 506: Overcoming Real World Challenges in Global Health

“We take a practical approach to studying leadership and ethics through case study analysis and short talks by experts in the field from around the world in order to understand how the key principles are applied in real-world scenarios. This interactive model is more engaging and promotes critical thinking and cultural exchange of ideas from students from different cultural backgrounds and from different fields.”

Pictured from left: Roberta McKean Cowdin, PhD, Mellissa Withers, PhD, MHS, Howard Hu, MD, MPH, ScD. (Photo/USC)

Shubha Kumar, PhD, MPH

PM 506: Overcoming Real World Challenges in Global Health

“Course is competency-based and includes multiple types of instructional materials and opportunities for engagement (including lectures, case studies, discussions, group activities, individual assignments, etc.) as critical to successful adult online learning. All assignments are linked to specific course competencies and have structured rubrics for assessment.”

Pictured from left: Roberta McKean Cowdin, PhD, Shubha Kumar, PhD, MPH, Howard Hu, MD, MPH, ScD. (Photo/USC)

Erika Garcia, PhD, MPH

PM599: Data Science Methods for Climate Change Health Research

“Given the diverse students in this new transdisciplinary team- taught course (w/Drs. Eckel & Silva), we were very purposeful and considerate in our course design and pedagogical approach and strove for an inclusive classroom. Each class session had explicit learning objectives, readings were selected to be inclusive, and we used a variety of active learning method like role playing and hands-on technology.”

Pictured from left: Roberta McKean Cowdin, PhD, Erika Garcia, PhD, MPH, Howard Hu, MD, MPH, ScD. (Photo/USC)

Sandrah Eckel, PhD

PM599: Data Science Methods for Climate Change Health Research

The goal in this transdisciplinary course is to empower the next generation to use data science to improve the sustainable future of human health in a changing climate. The course is taught by an interdisciplinary team of faculty from 3 disciplines and aims for effective and inclusive pedagogy using cutting-edge assignments and a modern syllabus format.

Pictured from left: Roberta McKean Cowdin, PhD, Sandrah Eckel, PhD, Howard Hu, MD, MPH, ScD. (Photo/USC)

Rita Burke, PhD, MPH

PM 567: Public Health Disaster Management and Response

The course aims to help students overcome barriers to learning and as a result, incorporates a wide variety of approaches. Students work individually and in groups, lead class discussion individually, and present their critical analysis in a group with their peers. As communication has emerged as a critical component during the pandemic, a special emphasis is placed on students developing their communication skills, both verbal and written.

Pictured from left: Roberta McKean Cowdin, PhD, Rita Burke, PhD, MPH, Howard Hu, MD, MPH, ScD. (Photo/USC)


Chair’s Citation on Pedagogical Excellence Award

  • Effective Pedagogy. Application of evidence-based higher education teaching principles to courses, content, and assignments being taught.
  • Inclusive Pedagogy. Demonstrating commitment to inclusive pedagogy by adapting instructional materials and approaches to ensure centering the diversity of student learning approaches and needs.
  • Engaged Pedagogy. Courses and materials reflect a high level of student engagement, involvement, and intellectual commitment.
  • Cutting Edge Assignments. Utilization of assignments that reflect the contemporary higher education standards, ensuring high academic achievements among students.
  • Syllabus Modernization. Syllabus is up to date and reflects the latest format, template, and updated content.

Inclusive Pedagogical Excellence Award

  • Pedagogical Inclusiveness
  • Antiracist Pedagogical Approaches
  • Challenge Dominant Eurocentric Norms
  • Non-Orthodox Ideas
  • Highlights Diverse Perspectives

For more details, please reach out to the committee chair Ans Irfan at