2024 Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching Announced

Sarah ParkeMay 8, 20247min
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Each year at Commencement, Wesleyan University recognizes three outstanding faculty members with the awarding of the Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching. The University is delighted to announce that this year’s recipients are Abigail S. Hornstein, Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics; Michelle Aaron Murolo, professor of the practice in molecular biology and biochemistry; and Rashida Z. Shaw McMahon, associate professor of English.

Underscoring Wesleyan’s commitment to its scholar-teachers, these annual prizes are made possible by gifts from the family of the late Frank G. Binswanger Sr., Hon ’85. Recipients are chosen each spring by a committee composed of faculty and members of the Alumni Association Executive Committee based upon strong recommendations from alumni of the last 10 graduating classes, as well as current juniors, seniors, and graduate students.

These three remarkable teachers (bios below) join the distinguished group of previous Binswanger recipients.

2024 Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching Recipients:

Abigail S. Hornstein, Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics

Abigail Hornstein is the Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics and chair of the economics department at Wesleyan University. Her research focuses on corporate finance of multinationals, with an emphasis on corporate governance and legal institutions. Before coming to academia, Hornstein spent five years working in Hong Kong financial institutions, including the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) as an economist and analyst, where she developed an expertise in Chinese financial markets. Her career switch reflected a desire to understand the systemic causes and consequences of the Asian financial crisis given the unique characteristics of China’s economic development. Hornstein holds a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian studies from Bryn Mawr, and a Ph.D. and master’s of philosophy in economics from the Stern School of Business, New York University. She regularly teaches courses in introductory and advanced econometrics, corporate finance, and foreign direct investment. Hornstein’s publications include articles in journals such as the Journal of Empirical Finance, Journal of Comparative Economics, Journal of Economics and Management Strategy, Journal of Corporate Finance, and China Economic Review. She founded and led the Liberal Arts Financial Economics Conference from 2015-2023. She also organized the 2015 conference “Teaching Finance at Liberal Arts Colleges.” Hornstein, who speaks Mandarin, has twice been a Mellon Foundation Summer Fellow as well as a Ford Foundation/Aspen Institute Fellow.

Michelle Aaron Murolo, Professor of the Practice in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry

Michelle Murolo is a professor of the practice. As a Barry Goldwater Scholar, she earned a Bachelor of Science in molecular biology from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. Murolo went on to earn a Ph.D. in molecular microbiology from Yale University as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Predoctoral Fellow. After her graduate work, Murolo decided to share her love of science with others by devoting her career exclusively to teaching. She joined Wesleyan’s faculty in 2009, and for the past 15 years, has been dedicated to working with the students enrolled in Principles of Biology lecture and lab. Murolo enjoys incorporating new teaching practices and lots of real-life applications of scientific principles into her lecture and lab courses. She works extensively with her students to ensure that they have a rewarding first year biology experience. With more than 200 students enrolled in the Principles of Biology labs each year, she also works diligently to train and supervise the undergraduate course assistants and graduate teaching assistants who help teach these foundational labs each semester. In addition, Murolo is passionate about inclusivity, and she has worked closely with Wesleyan’s Math and Science Scholars (WesMASS) program. She is also well known for working with student groups to plan academic, social, and outreach events that help foster a sense of community among students.

Rashida Z. Shaw McMahon, Associate Professor of English

Rashida Z. Shaw McMahon is an associate professor in English and an affiliated faculty member in African American studies, theatre, and Caribbean studies. Her course offerings and research exemplify interdisciplinary methodologies and collaborative approaches toward examining: the dramatic and performance traditions of African Americans and the larger African diaspora; American drama; American musical theatre; American and European theatre and performance histories; theatrical spectatorship; dramatic adaptations of poetry, novels, and historical fiction; and the application of critical race theories, gender theories, sexuality theories, and popular culture theories to drama and performance. Raised in St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands, Shaw McMahon graduated from Wesleyan in 1999, majoring in theatre (with a concentration in acting) and sociology and earning honors for her thesis in theatre. After Wesleyan, she received her Ph.D. in theatre and drama from Northwestern University. Her latest book, The Black Circuit: Race, Performance, and Spectatorship in Black Popular Theatre (Routledge, 2020), examines “Chitlin Circuit” theatrical productions and the reception practices of African American spectators. Shaw McMahon’s scholarship has appeared in various print and online journals, as well as in edited anthologies on race, performance, media, and sociology. She is a member of the American Society of Theatre Research (ASTR), the Association of Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE), the Black Theatre Association (BTA), and the International Federation of Theatre Research (IFTR). In 2016, she was awarded the Mellon Mays Mentor of the Year Award at Wesleyan.