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MUSAC names Cytrynbaum winner of Medill Students’ Choice Award

Cat Zakrzewski

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The Medill Undergraduate Student Advisory Council named lecturer Pam Cytrynbaum the recipient of the 2012 Medill Students’ Choice Award on April 5.

Cytrynbaum said she was thrilled to be honored with this recognition.

“Well, I shrieked,” said Cytrynbaum about her initial response to receiving the award. “It just means everything to me because really I love teaching, and I love teaching at Northwestern in particular because I was a student here. It has always felt like home to me.”

Cytrynbaum graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Medill in 1988. According to her biography on Medill’s website, she has taught for the Medill Innocence Project and is the co-creator and former director of the Justice Brandeis Innocence Project at Brandeis University. She also has written for several major metropolitan dailies, including the Chicago Tribune.

Cytrynbaum said all of her professional experiences have made her a better professor.

“I’ve covered every kind of story, and I have made every kind of mistake,” Cytrynbaum said. “I’m able to preempt for my students.”

Cytrynbaum regularly teaches freshman journalism courses. Last quarter, Weinberg freshman Haley Pilgrim said she decided to try journalism and took Cytrynbaum’s 201-1 Reporting and Writing course.

“She made it fun, and 201-1 is definitely not a fun class,” Pilgrim said.

Cytrynbaum said she has been impressed with the quality of students she has been able to teach.

“Medill students come in with journalism on the brain and in their hearts and souls,” Cytrynbaum said. “I can start at such a high level.”

Although Pilgrim said she decided early on that journalism would not be her future major, she did not drop the class because Cytrynbaum made her feel comfortable even though she did not have as much journalism experience as her classmates.

“I’m really excited that she won the award and that I was able to be in her class because I know I’m going to keep in contact with her for the rest of my adult life,” Pilgrim said.

Pilgrim said many of the students in her class tried to register for Cytrynbaum’s section for their next journalism course.

“I know every student in my class was incredibly fond of her,” she said.

Cytrynbaum was named the recipient of this year’s award after MUSAC emailed a Google document survey to Medill students asking them to name professors who have had the most impact on them. More than 100 students responded, and Cytrynbaum received the most votes, said Kimberly Lee, MUSAC all-council co-chair. The award will be presented at the annual Medill Student Showcase on April 26.

“I think the reason that we put on the showcase and give the award is because it’s important to really establish a sense of community within Medill, and that is really what MUSAC is here to do,” said Lee, a Medill junior. “Part of that is acknowledging student work and recognizing professors.”

Medill sophomore Jessica Gaddis has never had Cytrynbaum as a professor in class, but she has worked with her at a writing workshop Cytrynbaum runs for Chicago high school students.

“She is just a very warm and engaging person,” Gaddis said. “Students just love to be around her. When teachers are like that, it just makes it so much easier to work with them and take their criticism.”

Gaddis said she plans to attend the showcase to show Cytrynbaum she has support both inside and outside the classroom.

Cytrynbaum recognized the role of other Medill professors in her success as a teacher. She called working at Medill a “collaboration.”

She also said she was particularly honored to receive the award because she comes from a family of teachers.

“I love to teach,” Cytrynbaum said. “This is sort of an affirmation that I’m on the right track. It gives me a little bit of more confidence or more assurance that I’m doing what I need to do.”


About the Writer
Cat Zakrzewski, In Focus Editor

Cat Zakrzewski is the In Focus editor of The Daily and a Medill junior. Her past positions include assistant summer editor, Campus editor, Holiday Guide...