Students' Award for Teaching Excellence

The Students’ Award for Teaching Excellence recognizes a faculty member who commits time outside of the classroom to prevent students from falling through the cracks, demonstrates an enthusiasm for the subject matter, and instills enthusiasm and passion in students.

Andra Chastain

Assistant Professor of History

Andra Chastain may ask a lot of her students, but she gives even more than she asks. In nominating her for the teaching award, a student praised her “desire and commitment to help students succeed” and her willingness to be available whenever a student needs her. “She inspires and helps encourage me as a researcher to dig deeper, think harder and aim beyond what I thought possible,” the nominator added.

Chastain teaches introductory and advanced history classes. Her research and teaching interests include modern Latin America, with a focus on Chile in a global context; the transnational history of aid and development; the global Cold War; urban and environmental history; and the history of science and technology. Her broad curiosity creates excitement in the classroom and an uncommon ability to make students fall in love with history. “I want students to see how knowledge about the past is dynamic and contested—and has serious implications for the present,” she said.

She encourages students to speak up, and her classes are lively with discussion. “I love the opportunity to build a sense of community in my classroom,” she said. “We establish a culture of respectful dialogue from the start.”

Chastain believes in setting high expectations, communicating them clearly then showing how they are attainable. She is honest about the challenges of the research and writing process. “I know from experience that if a goal seems impossible, procrastination and guilt take over,” she said. “But if a seemingly insurmountable project is broken down into small tasks, and you have the support from peers and your professors to achieve these tasks, you can go farther than you had imagined.”

Chastain earned her bachelor’s degree in 2008 from Reed College in Portland, then went on to earn a master’s degree from the University of California Berkeley in 2012, both an M.A. and an M.Phil. from Yale University in 2014; and a Ph.D. from Yale in 2018. She has been teaching at WSU Vancouver ever since. She is currently revising her dissertation into a book about the history of the metro system in Santiago, Chile.

While she loves sharing her passions with students, she gains a lot from them too. “I guide the ship, but we are all learning together,” she said. “Their questions provide a foundation for a lively conversation in class—and the process of creating knowledge is all about keeping that conversation going.”

Past award recipients

2018 – 2019
Hua Tan

2017 – 2018
Dale Fortin

2016 – 2017
Enrique Brouwer

2015 – 2016
Gretchen Rollwagen-Bollens

2014 – 2015
Tom Tripp

2013 – 2014
Dene Grigar

2012 – 2013
Ron Pimentel

2011 – 2012
Wei Xue

2010 – 2011
Maria Lee-Lopez 

2009 – 2010
Pavithra Narayanan

2008 – 2009
Dawn Banker

2007 – 2008
Marcelo Diversi

2006 – 2007
Mark Stephan

2005 – 2006
Christopher Plouffe

2004 – 2005
Paul Thiers

2003 – 2004
Kandy Robertson

2002 – 2003
Suzanne Smith

2001 – 2002
Melissa Gruys

2000 – 2001
Jackie McReynolds

1999 – 2000
Tom Tripp

1998 – 1999
Lori Irving

1997 – 1998
Carolyn Long

1996 – 1997
Mike Morgan

1995 – 1996
Claire Latham
Lori Irving

1994 – 1995
Corlene Ankrum

1993 – 1994
Jerry Goodstein

1992 – 1993
Randy Kleinhesselink

1991 – 1992
Charles “Cap” Peck

1990 – 1991
Georgie Weatherby