The University is pleased to announce the recipients of the Distinguished Teaching Awards for 2021. They are: Lori Russell Dağ, Seçkin Köstem and Burak Ülgüt, along with Hossein Dabir, who passed away in December and is being presented with the award posthumously. The four awardees were chosen for demonstrating outstanding teaching abilities and for contributing to students’ academic and intellectual development. Please see the 2021 Distinguished Teaching Award recipients’ statements below. (Mr. Dabir’s statement has been excerpted from the statement he wrote for his award nomination file.)
Hossein Dabir, 1970-2020 (FAE)
To me teaching is not or should not be limited to passing on information and just helping students meet course requirements. It should go beyond that. Teaching well or teaching successfully can be judged by student involvement, student ownership of the learning process and their willingness to carry out further research to extend the content of a particular course. This starts with facilitating the learning of each student regarding his/her particular needs. Students need to understand the learning process and discover the steps that they need to take to stretch their potential. This will help their learning to go beyond a particular course and will contribute to their overall education.
The key principles of my teaching and choice of materials have been based on inspiring a sense of discovery in students and letting them feel the pleasure of applying new knowledge to things that they are familiar with and thus enabling them to see a whole new perspective.
These principles together with the hard work and passion of my students and the opportunities that Bilkent has provided have led to many hours of fruitful, memorable lessons.
Hossein Dabir will always be remembered by his students, colleagues and the Bilkent staff.
Lori Russell Dağ (CS)
I am incredibly pleased and honored to be one of the recipients of the Distinguished Teaching Awards for 2021. Looking at the recipients in previous years, I feel very privileged to be in such good company. I would like to thank the Department of Computer Engineering and the Faculty of Engineering for the nomination, and for the work that went into the nomination process.
I am thankful to my colleagues past and present who made me an educator, and from whom I have had the opportunity to learn and shape my teaching philosophy and teaching style. I would like to also thank my students for their participation, feedback and support, which year after year gives me motivation to work hard and to improve. Students make it possible for us to be good teachers, and even in the smallest interactions, they can ask a question or express a basic idea in such a way that it unlocks new ideas and new perspectives on learning.
When I was young, I always wanted to be a teacher; however, at some point I naively decided I wanted more of a challenge and went in a different direction. Becoming an instructor at Bilkent University made me realize that teaching is one of the most challenging careers. There is always something new to learn, and something that can be done better. As a teacher, I do not think you ever finish a semester completely satisfied with the outcome. There is always something you wish you had done in a different way. However, there is always another chance to take what you have learned and use it to improve. I am grateful to have this opportunity.
Seçkin Köstem (IR)
I am honored and very happy to be one of the recipients of the 2021 Distinguished Teaching Awards. I would like to thank my department chair Özgür Özdamar for nominating me for this award. My heartful thanks also to my colleagues and students, who supported my nomination. My past professors at Bilkent University and McGill University have been my sources of inspiration; I can only aspire to be as good and inspiring as them. I have been taught by the best, and I owe my academic journey to them.
Teaching at Bilkent is rewarding. While I am still in the early stages of my academic career, I have already taught dozens of Bilkent graduates who are building careers in academia, the private sector, civil service, international organizations, the media and nongovernmental organizations. Over the years, Bilkent has been more than a university to me. I sympathize with my students and do my best to get to know them better, which is one way of showing my gratitude to this institution. I believe a professor has a lot to learn from her/his students. When I think about how much I have learned from my students in the past five years, I recognize how lucky I am to be teaching at Bilkent. As a Bilkent graduate and a junior scholar, it is a great pleasure to be a part of this pioneering institution. Last but not least, I am grateful to my family for their love and support.
Burak Ülgüt (CHEM)
I am deeply honored and humbled to be receiving a 2021 Bilkent University Distinguished Teaching Award. First, I would like to thank my department chair Prof. Emrah Özensoy for nominating me, as well as all my colleagues and current and former students for their support in the nomination process.
As a lifelong student, I have had many great teachers over the years, but a number of them deserve special mention. Mustafa Üstünışık has been an inspiration since high school; Prof. Şefik Süzer showed me that attention to detail and persistent questioning is the only way forward; and Prof. Héctor Abruña made me aware that motivated scientists generate new science and machines are merely tools. I am indebted to all of them for their impact on me.
Teaching is meaningful only if the students develop as a result. This improvement needs to be constantly monitored, and teaching methods have to be modified accordingly. I would like to thank all my students at every level, who continuously teach me how to teach via actionable feedback. It is with their criticisms that I work on improving various aspects of my teaching. I strive to lay the foundations, open things up and challenge them to the best of my ability.
In addition, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my family. I would like to thank my mother Melahat and my father Altan for being my first teachers, and my siblings Mustafa and Merve for being my first peers. Last but not least, I would like to thank my wife Nurten for sharing all the highs and lows life brings, and my son Tekin for never-ending questions that constantly remind me how much more there is to learn.