Celine Zipfel awarded for outstanding pedagogical achievements
Every year, the award for most outstanding pedagogical achievements is given to a faculty member who with their teaching is making a significant impact.
How does it feel getting the award?
I was delighted of course, but I also feel so lucky that I get to teach what I love. And this is a great validation from my students! The fact that this is an elective means that all my students had chosen the course, so they already have a common ground of interest in my field. And that is a good platform to build upon.
If you were to elaborate, why do you think you were awarded?
I put in a lot of effort into my teaching. I love this topic and I wanted to do it justice - and communicating one's passion well takes work. I spent a lot of time thinking about the main learning outcomes I wanted the students to achieve from this course and about how to navigate the tricky balance of “breadth versus depth". On one hand, I wanted to cover a range of different topics in development economics, as this is such a broad field. On the other, this is also an MSc course for Economics students, so each lecture would zoom in on some specific academic papers in detail, which meant making clear why and how the authors used certain frameworks or econometric methods to learn something new about an important development question.
What made you choose this area of expertise?
When I was in high school, I had a geography teacher who one day taught us about the irrigation challenges faced by farmers in the most arid parts of Africa. I realized then that I wanted to work in this area, or more broadly, in development policy. I wanted to work on big infrastructure development projects in a policy role. Then, during my undergrad, I took a Development Economics course. This was the best course I ever took. I completely fell in love with the subject. I didn't think I'd become an academic at the time, but then my aspirations changed during my first job after my master's, when I worked on an experimental study about coffee farming in Rwanda. After that, I knew I not only wanted to work in development, but I also wanted to specialize in this field as a researcher – and a teacher.
If you were to say any piece of advice, what would that be?
I like that here at SSE many faculty members seem to welcome the contact and connection with students and are approachable, so hopefully students make the most of that. So probably I would give two sides of the same advice to students and teachers. To students: don't hesitate to communicate whatever might be hindering your learning process to your teachers. To teachers: probably to ask students for feedback early in the course, to help spot issues that you might not realize are impeding some students' learning but can be resolved at relatively low cost.
Justification for the award
"As a newly hired faculty member, Celine Harion Zipfel redesigned an MSc course on Development Economics with great success. The course was highly appreciated among students, covering a wide range of topics and giving a holistic view of the field. Celine established a great connection with the students and was praised for her engaging teaching style, curiosity, and ambition level. Her apparent passion for the subject motivated students, who found it a pleasure to be taught by someone who enjoys her work."