Victoria Sadovskaya, professor of mathematics at Penn State, is one of three to be honored with a 2022 C.I. Noll Award for Excellence in Teaching by the Eberly College of Science Alumni Society. Instituted in 1972 and named in honor of Clarence I. Noll, dean of the college from 1965 to 1971, the award is the highest honor for undergraduate teaching in the college. Students, faculty members, and alumni nominate outstanding faculty members who best exemplify the key characteristics of a Penn State educator, and a committee selects the award winners from the group of nominees.
Sadovskaya loves to share her passion for mathematics with her students and to help them discover connections in the course material and develop a deeper understanding and broader appreciation of the subject. Nominators said her passion for mathematics is infectious, and that her enthusiasm and humor make lectures refreshing and memorable.
“She showed me the beauty of mathematics,” said one student nominator, “and her way of enjoying math eventually made a huge impact on my entire college career; I decided to become a mathematician in the future like her.”
Student evaluations for Sadovskaya’s courses have consistently been very high, despite the difficulty of the material. One faculty nominator noted, “the number of glowing comments from students is simply remarkable.” In lectures, Sadovskaya often begins by asking a question and then carefully walks through concepts that help answer that question. According to nominators, she clearly describes the underlying logic and connects the material to other concepts. She regularly checks in with the class with open-ended questions to see whether she should change the pace of the lecture, explain a concept differently, or discuss an additional example.
“She always started from familiar examples and slowly abstracted out their properties one by one,” said a nominator. “Every step of this abstraction was crystal clear as well as rigorously verified.”
Sadovskaya also dedicates a considerable portion of class time to collaboration, allowing students to work together on problems and learn from each other. One nominator said that this emphasis on collaboration “created a safe and positive learning environment where every student and their questions are respected.” Sadovskaya also stresses that making mistakes is a natural part of the learning process, and incorrect answers can reveal common misconceptions and lead to enlightening discussions.
“She runs a unique and dynamic classroom, unlike any other math classes I have taken,” said a nominator.
Sadovskaya serves as the faculty advisor to the Penn State Math Club, which allows undergraduates to explore a variety of mathematical topics and activities in an informal atmosphere. She is also active in the Penn State Women in Math group, which includes faculty, postdocs, and students, and she served for several years on the Graduate Teaching Assistant Oversight Committee and the Undergraduate Studies Committee.
Sadovskaya was previously honored with a Donald C. Rung Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching in Mathematics in 2017 and a Teresa Cohen Service Award in 2015, both from the Department of Mathematics at Penn State.
Prior to joining Penn State in 2012, Sadovskaya was an assistant professor then associate professor at the University of South Alabama from 2003 to 2012 and a postdoctoral assistant professor at the University of Michigan. She received a doctoral degree in mathematics from Penn State in 2000 and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from St. Petersburg State University in Russia in 1995.