The newest recipient of the Georgetown University College Academic Council’s Honors Teaching Award, which honors professors for instructional excellence, is professor Marissa Fond, an applied sociolinguist who focuses on the management of knowledge, beliefs and emotions in language.
Every fall, students nominate up to three professors who they believe contributed to their Georgetown experience in positive ways. Fond, an assistant professor in the department of linguistics, received the popular vote of students in the College of Arts & Sciences to become this year’s honoree and will receive March 20 the official award at the 17th Annual College of Arts & Sciences Honors ceremony.
Fond said the Honors Teaching Award is especially meaningful because it relies on student endorsement.
“Receiving the College Honors matters to me because, of course, the award comes from the students,” Fond wrote to The Hoya. “And as a teaching professor, I am here at Georgetown only for the students, they are my priority and my motivation.”
Fond’s academic interests lie in the intersection between linguistics and facets of society including health, gender and sexuality.
Fond said she encourages students to identify real-world applications of their classroom learning.
“Linguistics requires us to be observant and attentive to nuance as language shapes our realities; in my teaching, I try to remind students that they have a role to play in our work, and I encourage them to share bits of language in use that strike them as notable,” Fond wrote.
The classroom is a reciprocal instructional environment for Fond, as she enjoys teaching but has also learned from her students about the evolving nature of language.
“A former student alerted me to a morphological phenomenon popular on TikTok that—years later—became the American Dialect Society’s Word of the Year,” Fond wrote.
Sebastian Cardena (CAS ’26), a first-year representative on the College Academic Council, said he hopes the award will show Fond how much her students appreciate her.
“I think a lot of professors don’t realize how much students enjoyed a class or their teaching style,” Cardena wrote to The Hoya. “We really just want to make sure that professors realize the positive impact they have on their students, and to recognize the work that they do.”
Addison Basile (CAS ’26), another first-year representative on the College Academic Council, said the Honors Teaching Award pinpoints excellence among faculty and ensures it does not go unnoticed.
“I think the award is an important tradition that allows us to honor members of our College faculty who are going above and beyond to make an impact on Georgetown College of Arts & Sciences undergraduates,” Basile told The Hoya.
Elyse Kelly, an adjunct lecturer in the department of art and art history, received the award in 2021 and encouraged new recipients to continue teaching at a high level to support students however they can.
“You always hope that you can make an impact on at least one student; to learn that there was an entire group of students who all felt I was deserving of the award blew me away,” Kelly wrote to The Hoya. “Being recognized by your students is the best form of encouragement, so clearly they should just keep doing what they’re doing!”
Fond said she has a deep appreciation for all her students and the support Georgetown and her fellow faculty have provided her.
She said she hopes to continue drawing more students into linguistics and teaching them about the nuances of the field of study through problem-solving.
“I’m always telling – and, I hope, showing – students that humans are messy, language is messy, and our best way forward is to accept this reality and embrace the mess in our research,” Fond wrote. “I want students to be frustrated, to try something out and have to try again, and to work iteratively to get to where they want to be. I know they are up for the challenge, and I hope I’m up for the challenge of continuing to improve my own teaching and research.”
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