Your Colleagues

Ball, Kim receive NAGS awards


Published July 7, 2021


UB faculty members have received two of the three faculty honors awarded this spring by the Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools (NAGS).

Annahita Ball, associate professor in the School of Social Work, is the recipient of the NAGS Graduate Faculty Teaching Award (master’s level) in recognition of her excellence and creativity in the teaching of graduate students. The award emphasizes excellence in pedagogy, including classroom-based and/or distance learning instruction.

Myung Mi Kim, James H. McNulty Chair and Professor of English, is the recipient of the Geoffrey Marshall Mentoring Award in recognition of outstanding support of a graduate student or graduate students from course completion through research and placement.

Founded in 1975, NAGS is one of the four regional affiliates that comprise the national Council of Graduate Schools, the only national organization in the U.S. dedicated solely to the advancement of graduate education and research.

headshot of Annahita Ball.

Annahita Ball

In supporting Ball’s nomination for the NAGS teaching award, Nancy Smyth, dean of the School of Social Work, wrote that Ball “stands out for her creative and skillful pedagogy and her genuine investment in her students as learners, as future social workers, and as full humans.”

Smyth added that Ball began using such techniques as multiple media, flipped classrooms, concept maps, “jigsaw groups” and other creative assignments “long before COVID-19 pushed faculty beyond traditional pedagogical modes.”

And despite UB’s emphasis, as an R-1 institution, on research excellence, Ball “has never discounted her teaching,” Smyth said. “From required foundation courses to substantive area electives to community-based service learning, Dr. Ball has distinguished herself as one of the finest, most versatile instructors in our MSW program and as role model to colleagues.”

Smyth in particular cited Ball’s recent experience teaching SW 500: Social Welfare History & Policy, a required course that is often regarded as dry or boring, and not a favorite of students. Ball first taught the course in spring 2020, when students and faculty suddenly had to pivot to online learning while simultaneously dealing with other COVID-related stressors.

“Despite these odds, Dr. Ball’s evaluations from this content-heavy course during an extraordinarily difficult semester approached perfection,” Smyth noted, with mean ratings ranging from 4.8 to 5 on a five-point scale. “Students’ comments highlighted how much they learned, how well structured the course was and, as one student put it, how the course ‘was effective in nurturing critical dialogue on social welfare and problems in society.’

“In what many predicted would be a throw-away semester,” Smyth said, “Dr. Ball provided her students with a learning experience that was anything but.”

A UB faculty member since 2014, Ball has been recognized repeatedly for her teaching excellence, winning the School of Social Work’s Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award in 2016 and 2020, as well as the Outstanding Doctoral Student Teacher Award two years in a row while a PhD student at The Ohio State University and the Teaching Innovation Award while an assistant professor at Louisiana State University.

headshot of Myung Mi kim.

Myung Mi Kim

“It is all but impossible to encapsulate what Myung has offered to graduate education in the English department in her 18 years at the university,” English department chair Rachel Ablow wrote in supporting Kim’s nomination for the Marshall mentoring award.

Kim, author of six collections of innovative poetry, is also the subject of a 2008 book written by former students and younger poets titled “Building is a Process / Light is an Element: Essays and Excursions for Myung Mi Kim.”

The book “collects a series of reflections on her importance to students and/or younger fellow poets,” Ablow wrote, and “speaks directly to the esteem in which her mentees hold her.

“Yet one could surely assemble a companion volume based on the testimonials of students and advisees whom Myung has mentored solely in the twelve years since ‘Building is a Process’ appeared,” she added.

Ablow noted that Kim has continually tried to transform the mentoring relationship “into one of participation, of mutual listening, and of creative respect for difference” and brings students “into their own as thinkers, as writers, and eventually as educators themselves.”

She stressed that Kim integrated the concept of “diversity” into her mentoring and pedagogy long before it was acknowledged at universities as a “crucial aspect of any educational experience” — and at a level that still remains beyond “institutional prerogatives.”

Kim has been one of the most in-demand advisers for doctoral candidates in the English department, Ablow wrote, chairing 13 PhD dissertation committees and serving as a member of another 14 since joining the UB faculty in 2002.

In addition, she has used her McNulty Chair to provide multiple-year, top-up fellowships for incoming PhD students and supplemental travel funding for graduate students to attend conferences and residencies. And she still finds time to judge student writing contests, as well as first book prizes at the national level.

Kim, who served as director of UB’s Poetics Program from 2015-18, is also the recipient of the UB Graduate School’s 2021 Excellence in Graduate Student Mentoring Award and the Chancellor’s Award for Scholarship and Creative Activities in 2009.