Five UCSC instructors honored for their teaching excellence

Five instructors at UC Santa Cruz received the campus's Excellence in Teaching Award during the annual year-end ceremony on Friday honoring undergraduate student achievement. Students nominate faculty and the Academic Senate Committee on Teaching selects awardees, based on input from deans, department chairs, and materials submitted by nominees.

One of the Teaching Awards is called the Ron Ruby Award and given to a professor in the Physical and Biological Sciences. The award was established in 2004-05 through a gift to the Physical and Biological Sciences Division from the family of founding UCSC Physics professor Ronald Ruby, an innovative and energetic professor.

Each of the five instructors received the award from Chancellor Blumenthal. They recipients are:

Ben Leeds Carson, Associate Professor of Music

Ben Leeds Carson holds both a Masters and Ph.D. in Music. Prior to joining the faculty at UCSC in 2003, he taught at UC Riverside and UC San Diego and was a researcher and artist-in-residence at a music institute in Paris, France. He receives accolades for his teaching, research and performance. He received a prize for excellence in research at UC San Diego and won First Prize in the British and International Bass Festival. 

He is well respected by both students and faculty colleagues. Everyone points to his enthusiasm, dedication and energy. Students say they leave his classes with a greater appreciation for music and good teaching. His classes include lectures and YouTube clips, as well as performances by him, fellow musicians, and students. Colleagues call him a “true intellectual” who fluidly blends scholarship and performance.

Of special note is his sensitivity to issues of diversity in education, including issues of gender, ethnic, and cultural studies. The chair of the Music Department mentioned that he singlehandedly revised their undergraduate curriculum to integrate diversity issues (ethnic and stylistic) into course offerings, challenging both faculty and students to broaden their scope. 

Flora Lu, Assistant Professor of Latin American & Latino Studies

Flora Lu has a Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she taught in the Anthropology Department before coming to UCSC. Although she has only been teaching at UCSC for three years she has already made her mark with her colleagues, students, and the community. Since 2008, she received the Division of Social Sciences Golden Apple Distinguished Teaching Award (2010), a Division of Social Sciences research award (2009), and nearly $70,000 in grant funding from Academic Senate Committees and campus research institutes to further her work on protected ecologies and environmental justice issues. 

She is a strong proponent of service learning. In her Environmental Justice course, students do hands-on research and collaborate with organizations, such as the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (UCSC), Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice (San Francisco), and Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, to learn about environmental decision-making. 

Colleagues remark that her syllabi are superlative: interesting, well organized, clear and academically rigorous. Students are effusive about her teaching as well, noting that she includes guest lectures and films that are provocative and intended to stimulate discussion. She encourages engagement in the course material as well as with other students, which results in classes that are thought-provoking and lively.

Randa Roland, Lecturer in Chemistry

Ron Ruby Award for Teaching Excellence

Randa Roland is devoted not only to her students but also to the campus. She earned her Ph.D. in Chemistry at UCSC and, after short stints as a researcher at several companies and a lecturer at Cabrillo, she returned to UCSC. She has been teaching here since 2005. She currently teaches the General Chemistry three-course, large foundational series with up to 350 students per quarter. It is rare that faculty of very large classes connect individually with students, but she manages to do so repeatedly. 

Students say that she truly cares about them and strives to make everyone in her class succeed. Students find her enthusiasm for the subject matter infectious and give her superb evaluations, stressing her fun and friendly teaching methods as well as her ability to explain difficult concepts in a variety of ways (and as many times as necessary) to ensure that all students achieve her rigorous learning objectives. 

Roland is continuously exploring new ways of delivering the material and was first to introduce on-line homework in the chemistry series. (She color-coded it to help students learn and recall the material better.) She uses real-world examples and demonstrations, enabling her to make course material come alive. 

This is not the first award Roland received at UCSC, nor even the first this year. She received awards from the Disability Resource Center this year and last for creating a welcoming environment and using instructional sstrategies that respond to a wide range of learning styles, including students with disabilities. 

Robert Shepherd, Lecturer in Economics

Robert Shepherd received his Masters of Accounting from USC and shortly thereafter became the Chief of Accounting for the County of Santa Cruz, and then Director of Finance for the City of Santa Cruz. He joined UCSC as a lecturer 30 years ago. Lecturer Shepherd received the Excellence in Teaching Award in 2001, and has also been recognized by the Alumni Association with the Favorite Professor Award (1991-92) and by the Division of Social Sciences with the Golden Apple Distinguished Teaching Award (1991).

He receives high evaluations from students in all dimensions of teaching assessment: overall educational value, quality of instruction, command of the subject, organization, and others. Students comment on his enthusiasm and passion for accounting and teaching, impact on their confidence and career choice, and ability to make what some may consider a dry subject engaging and fun. He is extraordinarily dedicated to students, and was instrumental in the development of the accounting program and Business Management Economics major at UCSC. He serves on the department’s committee that evaluates undergraduates for honors in the major and is a regular volunteer for summer advising days. 

His courses are rigorous and prepare students extremely well for success in the field, as evidenced by his students routinely scoring among the highest in the state on standardized CPA exams and receiving job offers or internships while taking his upper division courses. Under his leadership and initiative, UCSC has become one of the major sites for recruiting by the country’s major accounting firms. He created and organizes a “Meet the Firms” day that links over 200 students with representatives of the major firms in an afternoon of mini-interviews and information exchange. 

Andrea Steiner, Lecturer in Community Studies

Andrea Steiner has an M.S. in Gerontology from USC and a Ph.D. in Health Policy Analysis from the RAND Graduate School of Policy Studies. She has extensive experience in research and has been a consultant and/or research associate at many locations, including the RAND Corporation in Southern California, and Research Institute for Care of the Elderly in Bath, England. She has been a lecturer at UCSC in the Community Studies Department since 2001 as well as the Biology and Economics Departments (since 2005 and 2006, respectively). Steiner’s mastery of new topics is impressive, and she confidently and successfully offers courses she has not taught previously. 

In 2010, Steiner received an award from the Disabilities Resource Center, recognizing her exemplary efforts to create a welcoming campus climate for students with disabilities, especially those with learning, psychological, Autism spectrum, and other disabilities that are not always apparent.

Steiner is widely known for her mentoring; her office hours typically fill the hallway with students seeking her advice and help. Student after student report on her rigorous standards, dedication to teaching and her fields of expertise, and concern for students. They wholeheartedly agree that her positive attitude, unfailing patience, and high expectations challenged and enabled them to do better than they had thought possible.