Dr. Gurinskaya Receives Teaching Excellence Award

May 8, 2024 - Patti McDonald

Anna Gurinskaya Photo by: Jacqueline Hawthorne Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Anna Gurinskaya has been awarded the Integrative Studies in Social Science Teaching Award by the College of Social Science at Michigan State University.

To be considered for the ISS Teaching Excellence Award, ISS faculty must have Student Instructional Rating System scores in the top 15% of all CSS ISS instructors. Faculty should also demonstrate teaching excellence, dedication to student success, a commitment to MSU undergraduate learning goals, and an emphasis on international, multicultural, or national diversity. The award comes with a $1,000 stipend.

Gurinskaya said she was surprised and honored when she received the news that she was receiving the ISS Teaching Excellence Award.

“I was working at a conference in Chicago when I got the email and was notified that I was receiving this award,” she said. “It was mentioned in the email that the letters from my students were a big deciding factor on receiving this award and that really makes me feel like I am doing something right in my teaching, not just with my current students, but also with my former students at the previous institution I taught at.”

Gurinskaya, an MSU alum who graduated in 2004 with her master's degree in public administration, has over 20 years of teaching experience. After graduating from MSU, she attended Saint Petersburg State University in Russia, where she received two PhDs and taught classes in the Department of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

In 2022, she decided to come back to MSU to teach after the Russia-Ukraine war broke out.

“I was very fortunate that this position of a fixed term assistant professor opened at the School of Criminal Justice, and so I applied. I was very happy that I got the job. I couldn't think of any better placement for myself, because after all, I'm a Spartan.”

Gurinskaya said although it was a difficult decision to leave Russia, she is proud to be working at MSU, a place she says “gives her a lot of happiness.”

“MSU really does feel like a second home,” she said. “Over the years, I was always remembering MSU with so much warmth in my heart, it was just a place where I was happy. I was happy with the people that I met here, and we had a wonderful, very diverse international community of graduate students here. As a student, I loved my classes; they were so different from how classes were offered back in Russia. So, it was an eye-opening experience as a graduate student. To me, MSU is like a home inside of my heart. In some ways, it's like, whenever I am having some difficulties in life, these are the memories that help and now I get to work at a place where I have always been so happy.”

As an instructor, Gurinskaya emphasizes the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in her classes. She said it is vital to have varied teaching styles so that all students have a path to success and feel welcome and included.

“Not all students are the same and it is so important, as faculty, to interweave different pedagogies and techniques to cater to students with diverse backgrounds and interests.”

Even while she was teaching in Russia, Gurinskaya, through her own personal efforts and through interaction with colleagues, was trying to create a safe and empowering environment in her classes.

“I was trying to bridge my U.S. experiences with the educational practices in Russia,” she said. “We were trying to bring this focus on critical thinking and diversity and inclusion while being more open to the world with free dialogue to bring more intellectual challenge to education.”

Gurinskaya said that she is appreciative of all her students, past and present, and that they have helped shape the person she is today.

“I am so grateful to not just my current students but my former students as well. It's because of them and what they have taught me that I am where I am today. They have taught me how to be a better instructor, how to communicate my ideas and listen better, and they have also taught me how to be a better teacher and person. I am more attentive, thoughtful, and more willing to engage in all areas of my life because of my students.”