Tamara (Tammy) Rahhal, senior lecturer II, associate chair of teaching, chief undergraduate advisor in the department of psychological and brain sciences (PBS), is one of five University of Massachusetts faculty awarded the 2020 Manning Prize for Excellence in Teaching for their exemplary dedication to students and the university. The faculty members—one from each UMass campus—will receive $10,000 awards in recognition of their commitment to academic excellence. Rahhal is also a TIDE (Teaching for Inclusiveness, Diversity & Equity) Ambassador.
Teaching mainly large courses, she is deeply committed to actively involving students in learning processes while keeping issues of inclusion and equity at heart by using a multimodal and universal design approach to teaching. Rahhal is a reliable advocate for her students and colleagues. Her chair describes her as a “high impact” faculty member who is very active in her department, supporting the mission of PBS by delivering a broad introduction to the behavioral sciences with a foundation in psychological and brain research.
A compassionate and resourceful mentor, she has helped countless students overcome tremendous difficulties in their lives so that they achieved their academic goals. As one of her students remarked, “She believed in me when I no longer believed in myself.” Another shared, “Not only was she there for me in times of need, she is also one of the first people I go to for celebrating my accomplishments.”
Since she began teaching at UMass in 2004, Rahhal has been regularly nominated and selected for various teaching awards, with extensive positive feedback regarding her engaging lectures. One student candidly remarked “you don’t even realize she is teaching you something.” Other students described taking a class with Rahhal as “transformative,” emphasizing how she “creates a comfortable atmosphere in which all students feel accepted and able to participate freely,” and noting how she approaches her work “with a sense of humility,” as when she consults with students to make course content more inclusive.
Rahhal received her PhD in experimental psychology from Duke University with her dissertation, “It’s not all downhill: Effects of instructions on age differences in memory.” Since then, she has continued her research on the effects of age, gender, and race on memory. Rahhal is a regular reviewer of articles in the Psychological Science, Psychology and Aging, Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Science, and Memory and Cognition.