I find myself always wanting to put my students first. I’m here for them.
Her students praise her for constructive feedback and for helping them write in new ways, calling her "excellent," "effective," and "interesting."
Another word to describe Jennifer Sopchockchai, a PhD candidate in English and the 2011 Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award winner in the humanities, social and behavioral sciences, is "agile."
Sopchockchai came to Northeastern after completing her undergraduate degree at Brown University in 2005. "Part of the reason I came to Northeastern," she says, "is because our program in the English Department gives students the opportunity to teach right away."
After a few training sessions and workshops, she found herself in front of 19 students as the instructor for ENGL1111: College Writing.
Though Sopchockchai's own research efforts are broad – she has earned a Graduate Certificate in Cinema Studies in addition to her work in English – her interests in the 20th century British novel, science fiction, narrative theory, film theory and popular culture seem narrow compared to the range of her students', whose majors include those in business administration and the sciences.
"The burden's really on me as a writing instructor to make what we do in my class relevant to the students," Sopchockchai says. When she found herself teaching a class on writing for the technical professions, she turned to her four roommates, who are engineers, saying, "they’ve been a great resource for figuring out how to teach my students who are also engineers."
She has integrated new media, including blogs, Twitter and electronic portfolios, into her classes, saying that it helps to apply everyday experiences to the traditional texts and theoretical ideas she asks her students to consider. When discussing themes of identity formation, Sopchockchai found that "Suddenly Thoreau became accessible because I combined Thoreau with facebook."
Sopchockchai has been praised for her innovation and flexibility in the classroom, and has been a leader outside of it as a graduate assistant in Northeastern's Humanities Center. The Center has allowed her to keep in contact with her former students, such as when she helped host a workshop between them and actor Stephen Lang (Avatar, 2009).
In addition to teaching, grading and working at the Center, Sopchockchai is working on her dissertation, which focuses on late Victorian popular fiction, including H.G. Wells, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, to argue that it historicizes issues of realism, perception, observation and representation in ways similar to the classic realist novel.
After she completes her PhD, she hopes to continue in academia. "I'd love to keep teaching," Sopchockchai says, "in English, in English and film, in anything that I feel as though I could contribute."
With her record at Northeastern as evidence, it seems that Sopchockchai will contribute to her field and beyond it.
More information on the Outstanding Graduate Awards can be found online, http://www.northeastern.edu/gpsa/gradawards/.
Northeastern's Department of English offers a part- or full-time MA program, as well as a full-time PhD program. Details can be found at http://www.english.neu.edu/graduate_studies/.
Submitted by Beth Giudicessi, May 2011