Associate Professor Annahita Ball named recipient of Excellence in Master's Teaching Award

Portrait of Annahita Ball.

Published May 12, 2021

“Dr. Ball made space for voices that are too often silenced and diminished... ”
Kathleen Weaver

By Catherine Donnelly

Congratulations to Associate Professor Annahita Ball on being named the recipient of the Excellence in Master’s Teaching Award from the Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools (NAGS). Described by her students as creative, genuine, encouraging, inspiring and honest, Ball has been on our faculty since 2014.

Since joining UB, she has distinguished herself as one of the finest, most versatile instructors in our MSW program. “Dr. Ball infuses her teaching with an openness to new methods and material. Long before COVID-19 pushed faculty beyond traditional pedagogical modes, Dr. Ball was using multiple media, flipped classrooms, concept maps, “jigsaw groups,” and creative assignments,” said Dean Nancy J. Smyth. “Another hallmark of Dr. Ball’s teaching is that it is not bound to the classroom. All of her courses incorporate experiential education and crossover learning to some degree.”

“Dr. Ball displayed excellence in her teaching through her ability to create a safe, and inclusive space for students to discuss controversial topics in a classroom setting. Her ability to normalize difficult conversations while providing an inclusive environment for opposing views was impressive,” said Michelle L. Melton, MSW ’21.

In addition to outstanding classroom experiences, her in-depth, experiential and creative crossover activities are what endear her to her students.

“As an older non-traditional student, sometimes I am not as quick to learn things as some younger students. Dr. Ball always took the time to make sure that everyone understood what was expected of them and actually made learning fun” said Heather Wray, MSW student.

“Dr. Ball spent much time helping me understand the various ways I could use a professional degree, and when I decided to apply to graduate school, she helped me immensely through the application process. It was always clear that her dedication was to me as a student and which choice was best for me,” said Candra Skrzypek, PhD student, MSW ’17.

Ball's teaching interests are diversity and oppression, social work services in schools, human behavior, and policy. Her research focuses on promoting educational justice to address educational inequities, most recently the Challenge2Change, a transformative school-based social-emotional learning initiative. With an eye towards continuous improvement, her classroom provides a space for students to find their voice and step out into their communities to promote change.

“Dr. Ball made space for voices that are too often silenced and diminished –  guiding students in her classroom while also lifting up other sorts of “teachers” for us to learn from,"  said Kathleen Weaver, MSW ’20.

In response to this exciting news, Ball stated, “I’m humbled to receive this award and excited to represent the School of Social Work and UB at this level. It’s been incredibly rewarding to teach our students, even (and maybe especially) during the trying times we’ve experienced lately. I’ve been lucky to have such wonderful opportunities at UB.”

NAGS is one of four regional affiliates of the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS). Founded in 1975, NAGS draws institutional membership from the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, D.C., and the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Quebec. NAGS recognizes the contributions of three faculty members to graduate education each year with three separate Faculty Awards. Two awards are for excellence in teaching (one master’s and one doctoral) and the third award is for excellence in mentoring.

The Teaching Awards are designed to recognize excellence and creativity in teaching of graduate students at the master’s and doctoral program levels. Innovation in graduate curriculum development and implementation also will be considered. The nominee must have been a faculty member of the nominating institution for at least three years at the time of the nomination.

“One of the greatest gifts of my college experience has been the opportunity to be Professor Ball's student. She deserves all the accolades and awards she could possibly be nominated for,” said Danial Khan, MBA/MSW ’21.