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Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS)

The Aaron Rapport Teaching Prize is given each year to the member of the POLIS academic community who is especially commended by our students for their teaching.

This could be for their level of commitment, their innovative teaching methods, their ability to make a complex topic comprehensible – or for something else that demonstrates high-quality teaching. The decision is made on the basis of student feedback. The prize winner could be a university professor or lecturer, a college lecturer, a postdoc or a PhD student.

The winner of the 2024 Aaron Rapport Teaching Prize is Dr James Wood

Every year, the Department of Politics and International Studies awards a prize based on student feedback to the individual who has best informed student's education in Politics and International Studies over this past year. It could be a lecturer, a supervisor or a seminar-leader, in any of the multitude of fields and subfields taught within the larger department. The award of the prize is based not just on the number of nominations, but also on what our current students have to say about why they believe the award should go to that person.

When students were asked to nominate an academic who has exhibited excellence in teaching this year, Dr Wood's name came up again and again. Dr Wood lectures for the undergraduate programme as well as postgraduate papers on political economy and analysis.

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Past winners of the Aaron Rapport Prize are:

2023: Professor Dennis Grube

2022: Dr Devon Curtis

2021: Dr Evaleila Pesaran

2020: Professor Jude Browne

Past winners of the previous POLIS teaching prize:

2019: Dr James Wood and Dr Ashley Walsh (jointly awarded)

2018: Dr Tom Hopkins

2017: Dr Tom Hopkins

Who was Aaron Rapport?

The prize is named after Dr Aaron Rapport who, from the time he joined POLIS in 2013, was one of the most popular and engaging lecturers in the department. His lectures and supervisions on US foreign policy and international relations drew some of the highest praise ever given by POLIS students for their originality, their humour and their captivating quality.

He led the department’s outreach work, and gave talks and classes to younger age groups to engage them in thinking about studying Politics & International Relations at degree level. In 2018, he was awarded the University’s Pilkington Prize for excellence in teaching. Even though he developed cancer in 2015 (and wrote a very funny blog about it), he carried on teaching until shortly before his death in June 2019.

A few examples of what the students wrote about him in feedback in 2018 and 2019 are:

"Dr Rapport should be commended for running what is unequivocally the best paper I have taken at Cambridge. It is flawlessly designed and executed. My enjoyment of this paper is largely a result of Dr Rapport's teaching and organisation."

"I found Dr Rapport's lectures by far the most engaging of my lectures this year. I really appreciate that he speaks in a clear and comprehensible way, and also adds humour in. I never came away from the lectures confused about anything, and felt that the lectures gave a very balanced perspective."

"Dr Rapport - outstanding supervisor, very helpful with first long essay, put much time and effort in over and beyond which was very much appreciated"

"Aaron Rapport- really good feedback on my (long) essay and recommendations for further reading. Fun and interesting supervisions, he was really enthusiastic about the paper and my essay title. I really enjoyed doing the essay and feel like I have learnt a lot from Dr Rapport."