Feature Stories Campus Events All Stories

W&L’s Darznik Wins SCHEV Award for Outstanding Teaching

Jasmin Darznik, assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University, has received a 2013 Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV). Darznik won a Rising Star Award, which goes to assistant professors who have been teaching six years or less.

As Virginia’s highest honor for faculty at its public and private colleges and universities, the award recognizes superior accomplishments in teaching, research and public service.

Darznik becomes the eighth Washington and Lee professor to win a SCHEV award in the last five years and the 19th faculty member honored since the awards were established in 1986.

“Jasmin’s award is a tribute to her many accomplishments as a teacher, writer and scholar.  The long list of Washington and Lee winners is a tribute to the high quality of our faculty,” said Robert Strong, acting provost at Washington and Lee. “SCHEV nominations are reviewed by a panel of academics, then by a broader panel that includes individuals from different backgrounds and a number of community leaders. A nominee must have accomplishments that impress both academic peers and leading citizens.”

Strong concluded, “Jasmin is an impressive nominee and a deserving winner, and we’re delighted that she has been recognized.”

A member of the Washington and Lee faculty since 2009, Darznik received her bachelor’s degree from UCLA in English and German and then earned a law degree from the University of California, Hastings College. She received her Ph.D. in English literature from Princeton University.

The courses she teaches at Washington and Lee range from first-year composition to creative writing workshops to seminars on the literature of human rights and the immigrant experience.

In support of Darznik’s nomination, one of her former students, Brad Harder, a 2012 Washington and Lee graduate, wrote: “As my mentor and my teacher for the past four years, Professor Darznik opened my eyes to the craft of creative writing and the richness of contemporary literature. She maintains a dynamic atmosphere of spirited give-and-take throughout her literature courses that encourages students to challenge their own preconceptions and freely share their opinions.”

Darznik is the author of the 2011 New York Times bestseller, “The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother’s Hidden Life.” The book has been translated into eight languages and is forthcoming in 13 countries. It was a finalist for the Library of Virginia’s People’s Choice Award and was short-listed for the Saroyan International Prize for Writing.

In 1979, Darznik fled the revolution in Iran with her parents. She could neither read nor write English when she started school in this country. She has observed that it was “through books that I began to feel at home in a new country.… Eventually, I found a home in a language to which I was not born but that I learned to make my own.”

She also published personal essays in such publications the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times Magazine. Her short stories, scholarly articles and book reviews have appeared in numerous venues.

William Gleason, professor and chair of the department of English at Princeton, called Darznik “one of the most gifted young teachers, writers and scholars I have had the privilege to know…. In the classroom — where all her many talents come together — she is a calm yet energizing presence, able to inspire her students while simultaneously providing them the guidance and structure they need in order to produce exemplary work of their own.”

Lesley Wheeler, the Henry S. Fox Professor of English and a 2011 recipient of the SCHEV Outstanding Faculty Award, said of her colleague: “Jasmin is a highly dedicated, compassionate teacher. She is responsive to student needs, spends a lot of time conferencing, and earns praise from students for her expertise, helpfulness and enthusiasm. She particularly shines in her thoughtfully designed creative writing workshops, demonstrating respect for her pupils as fellow writers and helping them to revise intelligently.”

SCHEV established the Outstanding Faculty Awards in 1986 to recognize excellence in teaching, research and service among the faculties of Virginia’s public and private colleges and universities. A special committee of education, business and civic leaders and SCHEV choose the recipients based upon nominees’ contributions to their students, academic disciplines, institutions and communities.

Previous Washington and Lee winners:

James Kahn (Economics) 2012
Lesley Wheeler (English) 2012
Rebecca Benefiel (Classics) 2011
Domnica Radulescu (Romance Languages) 2011
Ellen Mayock (Spanish) 2010
Mark Carey (History) 2009
Erich Uffelman (Chemistry) 2009
Suzanne Keen (English) 2008
William F. Connelly Jr. (Politics) 2007
Harlan Beckley (Religion) 2002
Pamela Simpson (Art History) 1995
Margaret Brouwer (Music) 1994
Andrew McThenia (Law) 1994
Edgar Spencer (Geology) 1990
Sidney Coulling (English) 1989
Brian Murchison (Law) 1988
Philip Cline (Economics) 1987
Leonard Jarrard (Psychology) 1987

If you know any W&L faculty who would be great profile subjects, tell us about them! Nominate them for a web profile.