Professor Eric A. Kades was among recipients of special university awards presented during Commencement ceremonies on May 20-21.
The Thomas Ashley Graves Jr. Award For Sustained Excellence in Teaching
The Thomas Ashley Graves Jr. Award is named for the university’s 23rd president, and recipients are selected annually by the president of the university from nominations submitted by each of the academic deans. This year’s recipients were Eric A. Kades, Thomas Jefferson Professor of Law, and Qian Su, senior lecturer of Chinese studies.
Eric A. Kades
No stranger to awards throughout his time teaching, Kades has often been cited for his drive for innovation and improvement.
As vice dean of the William & Mary Law School from 2008 to 2011, Kades reviewed teaching evaluations, mentored junior faculty, studied the empirical literature on teaching and learned about new techniques from colleagues. He said it was eye-opening for him, as he realized that even an accomplished teacher had much to learn and room to improve.
Shortly after his tenure as vice dean, Kades held the Kelly Professorship for Teaching Excellence, delivering presentations on pedagogy to the entire faculty. Years later, he remains a valuable resource for teaching advice, whether to overcome a classroom problem or to adapt new techniques.
True to his philosophy of innovation and improvement, Kades continues to adopt new practices in the classroom. Based on evidence about attention spans, he switches between modes of instruction through carefully choreographed classes, deploying Socratic questioning, lectures, short video clips to illustrate points, animated slides and polling.
With tablet computers installed in classrooms during the pandemic, he annotates slides during class, giving students an electronic record of notes. He further encourages engagement in large classes by programming small-group gatherings over pizza or donuts. Two years ago, a committee of law faculty, alumni and students honored him with another teaching award, the McGlothlin Faculty Teaching Award.
Throughout her 15 years at William & Mary, Su has contributed to the growth and success of the university’s Chinese studies program while helping launch the careers of many students who now work around the world in academia, government service and the international business sector.
Teaching a notoriously difficult language for adult learners, Su invites new learners through high quality, rigorous instruction. Su’s intermediate courses have retained roughly 90% of their enrollments over the last four years, and a high percentage of her students continue into upper-level courses.
“One of Professor Su’s greatest strengths is that she balances so well her high expectations for the students and their potential to learn,” one student nominator wrote.
Su has led W&M’s study-abroad program in Beijing four times and has committed to leading it again when travel restrictions ease. A crucial component of the Chinese studies major, this study-abroad program lasts seven-and-a-half weeks, making it the longest faculty-led summer program offered at William & Mary. It also requires students to complete eight credits of language instruction and take a three-credit, site-based culture course introducing them to Beijing.
Su has also served as president of the Chinese Language Teachers Association of Virginia since 2021. In this role she works to improve K-12 instruction across the commonwealth.
Read more about special awards given during 2022 Commencement ceremonies.