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Meet Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Ivan Moberly

UL Grad School -- 04/17/2021

Environmental and Evolutionary Biology Ph.D. candidate Ivan Moberly has been named the 2021 Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant by the Graduate School.

The Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award recognizes the best, brightest, and most industrious of our graduate teaching assistants for their work supporting faculty members in the classroom.

Adaptability and Openness

Ivan works with the research laboratory of Dr. Brad Moon, South Louisiana Mid-Winter Fair/BoRSF Professor of Environmental Science, and has served as Dr. Moon’s teaching assistant in comparative morphology, comparative environmental and metabolic physiology, and herpetology courses. Ivan’s field of study is animal locomotion, particularly how chameleons climb in the complex environments of trees and shrubs.

“He has a friendly speaking style and a natural sense of humor that makes heavy material feel much lighter and reflects a good balance between the seriousness of teaching complex material and the joy of communicating cool things about how animals work,” Dr. Moon notes.

“Ivan always devoted full effort to his teaching, giving each student individual attention and feedback, and helping students learn how to accomplish unfamiliar goals on course field trips.”

This past year, Ivan also assisted in revising the department’s general physiology course alongside assistant professor of biology Dr. Emily Kane.

Dr. Kane reflects that the “preparation was fast-paced, demanding, and required a more significant intellectual effort than most student assignments. Ivan not only succeeded at meeting these demands, but he also exceeded them by being creative, adaptable, and inclusive of student needs while ensuring that the curriculum challenged students and was as comparable as possible to an in-person experience.”

Creating Inclusiveness

In his approach to teaching, Ivan emphasizes the need to understand “feelings of exclusion and low self-worth and the intentional avoidance of classroom discussions, social interactions, and group projects.”

“As a graduate Teaching Assistant at UL Lafayette, I have used my experiences to play an active role in the overcoming of difficulties by diverse students, using the variety of University provided services and support networks of colleagues, friends, and families.”

Speaking of Ivan’s efforts to create welcoming inclusive environments, Dr. Kane notes, “one of the first things that impressed me about Ivan is that he always addressed the students in emails with ‘Hello Physiologists.’”

“This emphasized that they are scientists, even though they are still learning, and are included in the field of physiology. This may seem minor, but including students as a part of the team, especially at a career stage where many perceive themselves to not yet be scientists, is a first step in helping them cross psychological and societal barriers to their success,” she says.

In addition to teaching courses designed for biology majors, Ivan has been the Instructor of Record for four introductory courses in biology, including large courses for non-majors.

The selection of instructors for these courses is critical, Dr. Moon notes, as they “provide the only opportunities for many of the students to learn about science and become prepared to make informed decisions in the future, such as ones about medical care, environmental policies, and political candidates who will affect science and education policies.”

Ivan has also participated in outreach activities. He volunteered as a judge for the K-12 education non-profit Science Olympiad, and served as a speaker at a regional elementary school. 

He notes that his approach to teaching has been shaped by his experiences as a graduate teaching assistant, where he learned to “challenge students to go beyond memorization and basic comprehension, and to be able to think critically, evaluate, and apply their knowledge.”

“Helping students recognize and overcome their own difficulties can pose the greatest of all challenges, but the successes of the student is the most rewarding experience,” Ivan says.

Our Ph.D. in environmental and evolutionary biology prepares students for the highest levels of scholarship and research in academia and industries. Learn more about the doctoral program in biology. →