UC Santa Cruz anthropology professor Triloki Pandey has been named winner of the Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award given by the American Anthropological Association and Oxford University Press.

This award was established in 1997 to recognize teachers who have contributed to and encouraged the study of anthropology. The successful teaching of anthropology is at the core of producing successful anthropologists, the anthropology association states. The award will be presented at the AAA's annual meeting in Chicago in November.

"This is an incredible honor and so richly deserved," said anthropology department chair Danilyn Rutherford.

"Professor Pandey is a charismatic and beloved teacher whose courses are incredibly popular and consistently receive rave reviews in formal evaluations submitted by students," Rutherford wrote in a nominating letter. "In these documents, students often note that he is the very best teacher that they have ever had and that he represents all that a university professor should be."

UCSC's anthropology department files indicate Pandey has taught nearly 5,000 undergraduates in more than 300 courses since he joined the faculty in 1973. More than two dozen alumni submitted letters of support adding to a trove of unsolicited letters received over the years.

Several of the writers noted that they were inspired to enter the field of anthropology because of his classes.

Earlier this year, Pandey won a Chancellor’s Achievement Award for Diversity. In 2005, he won the UCSC Division of Social Sciences Distinguished Teaching Award, known as the "Golden Apple Award."

Last year, he won the Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Medal give by the NRI Welfare Society of India to recognize outstanding services and achievements by Indians in the international arena.

Pandey's areas of research include the religion and politics of the Pueblo Indians of the American southwest and the tribal peoples of Himalayan Terai and northeast India. He has done fieldwork among the Zuni, Hopi, and the Navajo in the southwest, and more recently among the Tharus of India and Nepal, and among the Khasi, Garo, and Naga in  northeastern India.

"Professor Pandey is an extraordinary teacher for all the right reasons," Rutherford wrote. "He loves his subject matter and genuinely cares about his students and what they learn. We agree with one of his students who described him as 'a jewel of the campus.' We would go further – he’s a jewel of the discipline."