Letter from Carlos

The following letter was sent to Professor Tom Rishel, Director of Undergraduate Teaching in the Mathematics Department, by one of my students, and is on file with the Department.

May 4, 1995

Dear Mr Rishel:

I was enrolled this semester in the experimental 112 section with Harel Barzilai and Lisa Orlandi. I found out you are one of the professors that has been very supportive of this experiment and I felt the need to tell you about the good job both Lisa and Harel have done this semester. Harel was my lecturer, but apart from the fact that I took Math 111 with Lisa, I was always in contact with her in office hours and at other times she made herself available.

This is the first time I have felt the urge to praise an instructor's work and it is because they have really earned it. I will tell you about my experiences with Harel, since he was the closest one to me, but Lisa also did a great job.

What really amazed me from the beginning of the course is the amount of extra time Harel dedicated to the students and the course in general. This is something I have never seen and not only made a big impression on me, but was very influential in helping me do well on the class. I could do appointments every week to go over material I did not understand well and he would schedule his time to make meetings possible, to the extreme that I have met with him on weekends and till 11pm on weeknights.

He has always run a very structured class and I find this important in the teaching [of] a course. He would give us a stack of announcements and help sessions available in the beginning and would then go into the day's material. He would give his own explanation of the material, which was very easy compared to the book's difficult and tangled ones.

At my request, he started holding review sessions every Sunday night, this is the day when homework is mostly done and many people like me become overwhelmed by doubts and there was never any help available on a Sunday night.

Both Harel and Lisa have taken time to create an enjoyable and interesting learning process, instead of the usually boring and monotonous lecture class. The projects we were assigned to do helped achieve more understanding of the theory and topics taught, by allowing the application of the material into more tangible situations. Working in groups also allowed me to get to know my classmates better and to learn to work together with people that sometimes differ in opinions, but with whom I was finally able to accomplish our goals.

I hope this appraisal allows you to value what went on in that course and that both Harel and Lisa can be praised for their great work.

  Carlos Davila