Bellet Awards honor three for teaching excellence

Each year, the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences — Pitt’s largest school — honors the talents of exceptional instructors with Tina and David Bellet Teaching Excellence Awards.

Established in 1998 and named after alumnus David Bellet (A&S ’67) and his wife, the annual award recognizes outstanding and innovative teaching in undergraduate studies.

The 2022 recipients are Jennifer Laaser, Dana Och and Ellen Smith. They each received a $6,000 cash prize and framed certificate.

“To be nominated feels great but pales in comparison to receiving an award that acknowledges and celebrates the often invisible work we do to support our students,” Och said.

During an April 5 ceremony at the University Club, the winners shared remarks with colleagues and students alongside Erica McGreevy, a 2020 awardee whose recognition was delayed due to the pandemic.

Erica McGreevy received her doctorate in molecular, cell and developmental biology from Pitt in 2014 and then transitioned into lecturing in the University’s Department of Biological Sciences.

Jennifer Laaser, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, joined the Pitt faculty in 2016. She now runs a polymer materials research group, the Laaser Lab and enjoys conducting science community outreach or “explaining cool science to anyone who will listen.”

Dana Och, assistant director and senior lecturer in film and media studies and director of undergraduate studies for the program, has had an interest in cinema since she was a child when a typical night meant staying up late to watch movies with the family. She enrolled at Pitt in 1992, where she discovered the opportunity to combine her love of media with teaching, and has been here ever since.

Ellen Smith, a lecturer in the English department’s Writing Program, received an MFA from Pitt in 1993 and returned in 2001 to teach literature, creative writing and composition courses, which she said enabled her the freedom to develop her craft as a writer and that of her students.

Read more about the Bellet Award winners on Pittwire.