Every year The Underground receives nominations from students who give compelling reasons as to why their professors should be chosen as one of our professors of the year. We distribute the Professor of the Year (POTY) awards to acknowledge the faculty members who have gone above and beyond expectations to ensure that their students are learning in the best kind of environment.


This year we decided to distribute the awards based on breadth requirements. Unfortunately, as no professors were elected under the Natural Sciences category, we decided to give our fifth POTY award to an exceptional professor within another breadth requirement category.


Paloma Villegas (Social and Behavioral Sciences)

Department of Sociology


“Professor Villegas has been an incredible force since I have been one of her students. She has completely transformed the pedagogical experience and is actively involved in her students lives. Often, as students of colour, we are not afforded many opportunities to see ourselves reflected in course material but Professor Villegas has ensured that I have.” TKTK


Professor Villegas


T.L. Cowan (Arts, Language and Literature)

Department of Arts, Culture and Media


“I have never been so engaged in a class. Professor Cowan has situated scholars of colour, Black studies and Queer scholars as foundations in this course and has offered students who are more creatively inclined an opportunity to engage with theory in much more interactive ways.” TKTK


Sharlene Mollett (History, Philosophy and Cultural Studies)

Department of Human Geography

Centre for Critical Development


Sharlene Mollett is an Assistant Professor whose research interests are land and natural resource conflicts, political ecology and feminist political ecology, Latin America, Honduras, Panama, Development geography, race, gender and property rights, Indigenous peoples and Afro-descendant communities, feminist and postcolonial geographies, and residential tourism. She received a BA from Glendon College, an MES from York University, and her PhD was completed at the University of Toronto.





“When you sit in your first class with Professor Sharlene Mollett, you will be taken aback when she reads aloud the course rules and regulations section of the syllabus, where she writes, “My name is Dr. Sharlene Mollett. Acceptable greetings for email/written correspondence and face-to-face interactions are Professor Mollett and/or Dr. Mollett”. Initially, some students felt threatened by what we read was a form of reminder, and imposition, of student-teacher power dynamic. However, when you sit into a personal seminar space with her, she begins to explain that her reason for this is because African-descendant women by default get situated at the bottom of power dynamics by any other race-gender identity that they speak with. This is her way of reminding not only her students but colleagues that she has had to work harder than them to be here, which is evident as she is the only Black female professor in the entire Social Sciences Department at UTSC.”


“Professor Mollett does not allow students with getting away with racist and misogynistic statements, and as a teacher is aware of the freedom that should be in classroom and the limits that this freedom should have since power-infused statements are hateful towards certain bodies in the classroom. Teachers should be moderators in conversations that students have within the classroom, and oftentimes teachers will overlook this responsibility because they want to promote a liberal notion of their teaching dynamic.”


“The course that she has created, Postcolonial and Feminist Perspectives, is the only course outside of the Women & Gender Studies department at UTSC which introduces students to a thorough reading into the intersection of race and gender binaries in their utilization in the development of colonialism and imperialism. Though these topics should be taught in early years of social sciences programs, Professor Mollett has taken it into her own hands to be teaching this in her D-level class.”


“Many students come out of her class with strong papers, worthy of publication and presentation. She does not let students settle for mediocrity, or create repetitive and redundant research. She transfers her knowledge of social geography and positionality. She encourages her students to think about why they are writing, how what they are writing about impacts them, and what their position (privileged or not) is amongst selected topics in her courses.  Furthermore, as a single-mother of one who strives to establish sisterhood with her students, Mollett has shown me personally that women will never have passes in life, and to live a life dedicated to justice may bring moments of turbulence and defeat, but these moments are met with experiences of peace. She gives racialized women on campus the will to move on, the tools to learn about what has already been done, and the strive to exceed beyond it. She has given us the cheat sheet for developing our homes and communities that we should have always had.”


Hillary Brown (Quantitative Reasoning)

Department of Anthropology


“She is the most organized and engaging professor I have had, she truly knows how to teach. She uses lecture time to get the students to think for themselves and encourages class participation throughout the entire lecture in an organized and clear manner.”

Maria Assif (Arts, Language and Literature)

Department of English


“She deserves this because of her outstanding commitment to students, passion for the topics she teaches, and ability to truly engage students in the material being taught.”


“She remakes you.”


I am in my final year of undergraduate studies at UTSC, and there is only one professor who I confidently feel has impacted me on both an academic and personal level. In class, I was always captivated by her passionate lessons, all the while smiles would creep the corner of my mouth because of her humorous remarks about the books we were covering. Her use of quizzes, peer-reviews, evaluations, discussions, motivated me to sit front row in class and participate–but that could also be given credit to how she makes everyone in class comfortable and confident. After class, Professor Assif would inspire me to put even greater effort in the next assignment because of the encouraging comments she would leave on the margins of our papers. Outside of class, she was only one UTmail away; her office was always open with ears that were willing to listen to her students concerns. Despite entering University as a science student, Professor Assif has made me fall so deeply in love with English literature that I had a lot of trouble contemplating whether I should pursue English or Science; that too, is something she has helped me decide outside the classroom. She fills the classroom with warmth and I can vouch for essentially every student that has ever taken class a with her that, she makes every student feel like they are her favourite. It felt as if, unlike many other professors who do not always make the effort to learn our names, Professor Assif even attempts to learn her our individual strengths and weaknesses to best tailor her teaching styles to benefit her students. With all honesty, I took so many English courses that I could have completed a specialist degree; still, only three out of those many English classes have really made feel like my critical thinking, writing, research, and teamwork skills have improved; all three classes which Professor Assif has taught. Althou`gh I have taken biology, chemistry, anthropology, geography, media studies, environmental courses, this student, who is graduating with an Honours degree in Bachelors of Science, is still going to nominate an English professor for this annual Professor of the Year award. I truly believe Professor Assif is deserving of this recognition.