The Department of Statistics at the University of Illinois is pleased to announce the recipients of this year's prestigious Doctoral Student Teaching Award. The annual award, presented at the department's banquet on September 15, 2023, recognizes outstanding graduate teaching assistants who have demonstrated exceptional dedication and skill in their roles.

This year, the honor was bestowed upon two remarkable individuals: senior doctoral student Tianning Xu and second-year student Evangelo Tsiamalos. Their unwavering commitment to teaching and their contributions to the department's educational mission have made them stand out among their peers.

The Doctoral Student Teaching Award is a highly coveted recognition within the Department of Statistics at Illinois. It is designed to acknowledge students who have excelled in their roles as graduate teaching assistants, consistently going above and beyond to enhance the learning experiences of their fellow students.

Selection for the award involves a comprehensive evaluation of the candidates' graduate teaching assistant record over the previous academic year, including the summer semester. The evaluation considers several factors, with a particular focus on the Inclusive Course Excellence Survey (ICES) ratings, which provide valuable insights into the students' teaching effectiveness. Additionally, the award committee consults with those who supervised the students during their TA appointments, ensuring a thorough and fair assessment.

Tianning Xu
Tianning Xu receiving Doctoral Student Teaching Award

Tianning Xu has demonstrated outstanding performance as a Teaching Assistant (TA) in various iterations of STAT 432 and STAT 542, consistently displaying strong ownership and leadership attributes. Noteworthy contributions include:

  1. Curriculum Enhancement: Tianning introduced Homework0 in STAT 542, aimed at enhancing student preparedness. This initiative involved refining assignments, incorporating feedback from grading, and developing supplementary materials, particularly focusing on optimization methods.

  2. Engagement and Responsiveness: Tianning's high level of responsiveness on platforms such as Piazza and Canvas has had a significant impact on increasing student engagement compared to prior semesters.

  3. Effective Collaboration with Graders: Tianning effectively coordinated grading tasks, established grading criteria, and conducted weekly meetings to ensure a seamless grading process. Furthermore, streamlining the grading process through the use of Gradescope and automating midterm exams during the pandemic contributed to easing the workload for graders. Additionally, Tianning previously excelled in STAT 400, earning a spot on the “Teacher Ranked as Excellence” list twice.

Evangelos Tsiamalos receiving Doctoral Student Teaching Award

Evangelos Tsiamalos has proven to be an exceptional Teaching Assistant for STAT 107. His dedication extends beyond standard expectations, encompassing a comprehensive range of contributions to the course:

  1. Comprehensive Support: Evangelos goes above and beyond in providing assistance across all facets of the course. His lab sections are highly regarded for his ability to simplify complex topics, making them accessible to students from diverse academic backgrounds. He is recognized for his personal approach, taking the time to know students in the course by name.

  2. Educational Resource Development: In addition to his lab responsibilities, Evangelos actively contributes to the course by creating data science guides on various statistical topics. These resources have garnered immense appreciation from students and have been made publicly available on the course website, serving as a valuable resource for anyone interested in learning data science.

  3. Reliability and Initiative: Evangelos is known for his exceptional reliability and proactive problem-solving. He consistently takes the initiative to resolve issues and offer assistance to the benefit of both students and colleagues.

  4. Teaching Excellence: His teaching abilities were further evidenced during the summer when he instructed a modified version of STAT 107 to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) high school students. In this role, he received praise from students and colleagues at CPS.

The Department of Statistics commends Tianning Xu and Evangelos Tsiamalos for their exceptional contributions and dedication to the field of statistics education. Their exemplary performance and commitment not only benefit their peers but also serve as a testament to their potential to shape the future of statistics within the Department of Statistics at the University of Illinois and beyond.

Click here for list of previous award winners.


Banquet photo
Additional photos from banquet for department students, faculty, and staff.
Additional photos from banquet for department students, faculty, and staff.

Aaron Thompson

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