Claudia Yaghoobi

Carlyle Sitterson Award for Teaching First-Year Students

Claudia Yaghoobi
Claudia Yaghoobi (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Carlyle Sitterson Award for Teaching First-Year Students: These awards were created in 1998 by the family of the late J. Carlyle Sitterson to recognize excellence in teaching first-year students by a tenured or tenure-track faculty member in the College of Arts & Sciences. Lyle Sitterson, was a Kenan Professor of History and Chancellor of the University from 1966-72 and was a passionate advocate for inspired teaching of first-year students. The first award was given in 2000. Two winners will receive a one-time stipend of $5,000 and a framed citation.

Assistant Professor of Asian Studies

Faculty member since Fall 2016

Hometown Tehran, Iran

Excerpt from award citation:

“Professor Yaghoobi really challenges her students to meet the potential that she sees in them. As a first-year, she helped me become a better thinker and writer by pushing me to raise my own expectations of my quality of work.”

Who was the best teacher you ever had and why?

I’ve had many supportive teachers and professors, so it is difficult to single out one or two. I will just say that without the inspiration, support and solidarity of an army of teachers, I would have never been able to be where I am today.

What is something you’ve learned from your students?

From my students, I have learned that as humans, we are limitless. If we put our mind on something, we have the talent, creativity and the capacity to do that certain thing. So, let’s not limit ourselves by thinking we cannot do a certain thing because we can.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

I taught myself to paint and I love experimenting with various techniques as an outlet for my creativity.

What does it take to be a good professor in 2020?

In 2020, in addition to mastery and knowledge over the material we teach as well as years/decades of experience, at least for me, it is humanity, compassion and empathy which makes me feel that I am doing a good job. I am invested in my students’ success, so I am there to help them get where they need to.

What’s the most creative thing you’ve done to engage your students?

I include so many creative and interactive assignments, readings, projects and activities in and outside classroom. This is the routine in all my classes. However, here’s one thing all my first-year students loved in spring 2019. It was Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day, and we were in a class on War and Veterans of Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. In this class, I try to allow students to see and find humanity in war; that is, moments where the humanity of the veterans and civilians are crystalized. On Feb. 14, however, I decided to bring this compassion and love for others to class. I asked all students to take out a blank sheet of paper and write their names on top of it. Then I circulated those papers and I asked them to write one kind statement about their classmate whose name was on the paper. They included me in this activity, too. Then, one by one, they added statements about each other on those papers. By the end of the class, each student (and myself) had 24 loving comments about themselves. This helped everyone to feel loved and share love on the day of love. I also asked them to write loving kind sentences on post-it notes and stick them on doors and walls around camps to spread love to everyone. I believe in 2020, we need compassion, loving kindness and empathy. And the students’ response to this brief activity shows that I am not wrong.

25 employees received University Teaching Awards this year.