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Tau Beta Pi Announces 2024 Teaching Award and Teaching Honor Roll

This year’s nominees lauded for their enthusiasm, kindness, and dedication to their students.
Prof. Katila on stage with two students as she receives the Teaching Award, all in regalia.
Professor Riitta Katila received the 2023-24 Teaching Award presented by the Stanford chapter of Tau Beta Pi. | Radhika Raj

Professor Riitta Katila never expected to hear her own name called during the Management Science and Engineering commencement ceremony on June 16th. But as she watched her students receive their diplomas during the sunny afternoon at Lagunita Court, she found herself accepting the 2023-24 Teaching Award presented by the Stanford chapter of the national engineering honor society Tau Beta Pi.

“All I could think was, ‘Did they just call my name?’” Katila says. “I was surprised, because I was surrounded by all these other master teachers. It was wonderful to be recognized by the students.”

The award, given each year at commencement, honors a School of Engineering faculty member who has displayed exemplary teaching, superior mentorship, and notable contributions to engineering education at Stanford, says Manish Raj, co-president of the Stanford branch of Tau Beta Pi.

“Every spring we ask for nominations from our pending candidates and members, who in turn give us the names of professors who have really touched their lives,” he says. “All of our members are passionate about academics and appreciate good instruction, so we think this is a meaningful way for students to demonstrate their appreciation for those professors who have had significant impact on their lives.”

Katila’s expertise – and enthusiasm – earned her multiple nominations from students.

“Her excitement for our senior project was contagious and helped fuel our passion even more,” wrote one nominator. “She is an inspiration and has had a strong influence on me. I work to keep a positive demeanor, ask questions, and understand everything as deeply as I can, just like Riitta.”

Those remarks and similar responses didn’t surprise Raj or Tau Beta Pi co-president Nathan Lam.

“It was heartwarming to see, because Nathan and I are both MS&E majors, and we’ve both taken classes with her in the past,” Raj says. “It was great to see that so many other students feel the same way about her that we do.”

“I’m honored to receive this award,” says Katila. “I’ve been at Stanford for 20 years, and the experience here is one of mutual learning, because students are always providing new ideas along with their enthusiasm. I can’t think of a dull moment, because they always have something going on and something to say, and I love that.”

Katila was not alone in being honored for outstanding teaching. The chapter each year also announces a Teaching Honor Roll recognizing consistently outstanding instruction. 

2023-24 Teaching Honor Roll recipients are:

Itai Ashlagi, Management Science and Engineering

Dan Boneh, Computer Science

Jay Borenstein, Computer Science

Jerry Cain, Computer Science

Kathleen Eisenhardt, Management Science and Engineering

Fredrik Kjolstad, Computer Science

Mykel Kochenderfer, Aeronautics and Astronautics

Mehran Sahami, Computer Science

Nick Troccoli, Computer Science

Ross Venook, Bioengineering

Teaching award and honor roll recipients will be recognized with plaques displayed in the Huang Engineering Center.

The Stanford chapter of Tau Beta Pi is one of 257 collegiate chapters of the organization nationwide, with an overall membership of 600,000 students and practicing engineers. While the chapter also hosts academic and professional development events, service projects, and social gatherings, the teaching award and honor roll has special significance, says Raj.

“We hope that recognizing exemplary faculty demonstrates that we appreciate it when teachers go out of their way to make our educational experience that much better, and hopefully contributes in some small way to the quality of education at Stanford.”