Celebrating outstanding teachers

With Chancellor Blumenthal, third from right,  the Excellence in Teaching Award winners for 2015 are, from left, Grace Peña Delgado, Mark Massoud, Irene Lusztig, Adriane Steinacker, Craig Haney, and Cormac Flanagan. Not pictured, Christine Hong and Ralph Quinn. (Photo by Barak Krakauer)
Eight faculty members have earned distinction for outstanding teaching this year, receiving accolades for instruction in fields as diverse as introductory computer programming, documentary film production, and physics for non-majors.

This year's winners of the Excellence in Teaching Awards administered by the Academic Senate are:

Grace Peña Delgado, associate professor of history

Cormac Flanagan, professor of computer science

Craig Haney, professor of psychology

Christine Hong, assistant professor of literature

Irene Lusztig, associate professor of film and digital media

Mark Massoud, assistant professor of politics

Ralph Quinn, lecturer in psychology

Adriane Steinacker, lecturer in astronomy and astrophysics, winner of the Ron Ruby Award for Teaching Excellence in the Division of Physical and Biological Sciences

At a celebratory lunch yesterday, I told recipients that both teaching and research are highly valued at UC Santa Cruz, and faculty distinguish UC Santa Cruz in both arenas; it's not an "either/or" choice on this campus.

These awards are presented annually by the Academic Senate's Committee on Teaching. Students nominated more than 200 faculty members this year—a testament to the depth of excellence in teaching here. Nominees were asked to submit a statement about their teaching philosophy, and committee members solicited letters of support from department chairs before selecting the winners.

Grace Delgado's student evaluations are exceptional, covered with "blizzards of exclamation points" that reflect her "student-centered" approach to teaching, wrote History Department Chair Mark Cioc.

Cormac Flanagan considers teaching his most important responsibility at the university and takes pride in seeing graduates land jobs at major universities and corporation like Google.

Students in Craig Haney's classes say he helps them see the criminal justice system in new ways—and inspires them to get involved in making it better. Psychology Department Chair Heather Bullock noted that many of Craig's former students have pursued careers as public defenders, public interest lawyers, psychologists, and social workers. Craig also delivered this year's Faculty Research Lecture—our campus's highest research honor—a reminder that many of our faculty excel in both research and teaching.

At the beginning of every course, Christine Hong asks students to write her a letter of introduction, telling her whatever they would like her to know about themselves. That personal touch doesn't end with the quarter; one student wrote that Christine checked in via email every quarter to see how the concepts and issues they had discussed in one seminar were evolving.

In her statement, Professor Lusztig described the "wrenching, intensely personal, and vulnerable" process of filmmaking—and her goal as a teacher to guide the process of self-discovery that is fundamental to each student's growth as an artist.

Mark Massoud earned high marks for his lectures and classroom strategies, which include role playing, debate, student presentations, and guest speakers. His creative approach is evident during office hours, too—he often invites groups of students to take a walk with him, encouraging the free flow of ideas outside of the classroom or office.

Students who nominated Ralph Quinn spoke almost in one voice, saying he had changed their life. Ralph, who has been a psychotherapist for more than 25 years, says bringing empathy, respect, and care to the classroom is more effective than browbeating, intimidation, and disdain.

Adriane Steinacker's enthusiasm for physics is infectious, which is why Department Chair Robert Johnson says there's no one else he would rather have teach Physics 6—a large introductory class for non-physical science majors. To her credit, Adriane enjoys the challenge of motivating non-majors to master a subject many approach with fear and trepidation. Nothing beats watching students who dreaded physics come to enjoy it, she says.

All of this contributes to what makes UC Santa Cruz such a great place to learn. My thanks to members of the Committee on Teaching for administering the awards—and my heartfelt congratulations to this year's winners.

As we prepare to graduate the Class of 2015, I want to thank the entire "village" of faculty and staff that is dedicated to the success of our students. Without you, there would be no UC Santa Cruz.

To our soon-to-be graduates, you are about to join a network of UC Santa Cruz alumni that's 100,000 strong. As you transition away from the campus, remember: Once a Banana Slug, always a Banana Slug. Congratulations and keep in touch!