Dr. Cassie Nelson, an assistant teaching professor in the Division of Life Sciences and the Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, was named the 2023 Teacher of the Year by the Rutgers Chapter of the Fraternity of Alpha Zeta, the national honor and service fraternity for agriculture and environmental studies.
The award was named in memory of Barbara Munson Goff, former director of the Cook General Honors Program and an Alpha Zeta alumna, who was an extraordinary teacher and mentor at the school. The award reflects the high standards of teaching exemplified by Dr. Goff and the qualities of leadership, character, and service that are synonymous with the ideals of the fraternity.
As a teaching professor, Nelson feels truly privileged to spend her time focused on student education and growth.
Of this teaching honor for which she is selected, she says, “I am truly humbled that the students of Alpha Zeta chose me for this award, given the number of outstanding faculty that work at this institution. It is an honor to be selected as the Barbara Munson Goff Teacher of the Year.”
Nelson received her undergraduate degree from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in physiological sciences. She went on to earn a master’s degree in Cellular and Integrative Physiology from the Indiana University School of Medicine and received her Ph.D. in Biology from Marquette University, where her dissertation explored the cellular mechanisms of skeletal muscle fatigue.
She has taught a wide range of courses, ranging from introductory biology to comparative vertebrate anatomy, at three universities over the course of her career. At Rutgers, she teaches ‘Systems Physiology’ to more than 800 students each academic year, serving both the School of Arts and Sciences and SEBS.
Personalizing a course with 400 students presents its challenges, especially given that one of her favorite parts of being a teaching professor is to mentor and get to know students on an individual basis. As a part of her ‘Systems Physiology’ course, Nelson has 35 interviews available for students to watch. These interviews are with medical students, graduate students, dentists, doctors, nurses and others who work within the healthcare system, and the focus of each interview is that individual’s journey from their undergraduate experience to their current role. Each semester, junior and senior students in the course are required to watch two of these interviews and reflect on what they learned, as well as self-reflect on their progress in their undergraduate journey in relation to their career goals.
Nelson is known for playing music before class to teach Gen Z about the good music of the 80s and 90s, drawing complex and colorful physiology diagrams during lecture, inserting memes into Power Point slides, and doing her best to remember the names of the students in her very, very large class.
Outside of teaching and mentoring Rutgers students, Dr. Nelson is a wife and mom of three rambunctious, elementary aged children, and enjoys running, strength training, listening to podcasts, baking, and coaching her kids’ sports teams.