Awards recognize extraordinary teachers

Teaching awards on table

UC Santa Cruz celebrated its innovative and dedicated teachers with the 2019 Excellence in Teaching Awards.

The awards were given out by Chancellor George Blumenthal on June 7 during a luncheon at University Center. Blumenthal noted that the seven recipients this year were selected from 430 nominations.

“Your caring, your commitment to teaching, your compassion for students is recognized and appreciated,” Blumenthal said.

This year’s recipients are:

Noriko Aso, associate professor, History Department

Aso uses a horizontal approach in her teaching, meeting her students where they are as a way of supporting their intellectual and scholarly development.

Additionally, she continuously engages with nontraditional pedagogies and assignments. For example, experimenting with silent discussions and focusing on collaborative approaches to learning both in undergraduate and graduate courses.

A student nominator wrote, “Professor Aso employs an insane amount of teaching activities that we try out in her classroom to gauge their fit. She truly is on the cutting edge of pedagogical best practices and universal design for learning.”

Nat Berman, lecturer, Music Department

Nat Berman, who earned undergraduate and graduate degrees at UCSC, continues his devotion to campus through teaching of the concert choir and wind ensemble.

With patience and vision, he leads the choir, which has very few music majors in it, to extraordinary levels. Berman believes that every student, whether a music major or not, should finish his courses with an improved sense of musicianship, technique, and creative artistry.

A student nominator called Nat “one of the most thoughtful, motivated, and engaging professors I’ve had the privilege of studying under.”

Rebecca Covarrubias, assistant professor, Psychology Department

Since her 2015 arrival to campus, Rebecca Covarrubias’s teaching commitment focuses on re-centering the voice and experiences of marginalized students to support, engage and support their success.

Her teaching seeks to address conventional research methodologies in psychology to re-imagine how research can be used as a tool for social justice and for resisting social inequities.

Students praises her teaching for her “engagement and passion for the material” while allowing her students to “challenge, question and and share [their] thoughts.”

Robin Dunkin, assistant teaching professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department

Robin Dunkin’s active learning course moves away from classic approaches, offering students a diversity of ways to demonstrate their mastery of concepts, often allowing projects and smaller assignments.

Students note that Dunkin keeps up with current pedagogy research and designs her teaching around that. In class, students use white boards and do partner work. They also are given daily videos to watch outside of class.

Additionally, Dunkin serves as a mentor and models leadership to and for her students.

Sean Keilen, professor, Literature Department

Sean Keilen’s ability to teach across the curriculum in literature reflects his intellectual and pedagogical skills.

He teaches lower division undergraduate courses as well as graduate seminars. His enthusiasm for the materials coupled with his support for student intellectual discovery is noted by many of those who nominated him.

Students say he has clear expertise in his field, and is adept at weaving student opinions into his discussions of a novel.

Adam Millard-Ball, associate professor, Environmental Studies Department

Adam Millard-Ball is described as creative, dedicated, effective, charismatic, and caring in his approach to teaching. He integrates experiential learning into all of his courses, encouraging his students to have real-world impact.

His teaching work engagement with students is to show how to be civically engaged to help mitigate problems of environmental injustice and climate change.

A student remarked, "He practices patience, inclusivity, and variety in his teaching which is unmatched by any other professor I have had. Dr. Millard-Ball has always taken steps to build a relationship with all his students and pays particular attention to each individual’s learning needs. He uses gentle yet motivating encouragement which I believe has transformed me from a high school student to a college student."

Shelley Stamp, professor, Film and Digital Media Department

Shelley Stamp’s teaching encompasses movie culture, critical analysis and public engagement.

These teaching strategies make her courses dynamic, whether it be a large lecture course or a small senior seminar.

Colleagues speak of the consistently glowing reviews of her classes from all of her students—undergrads or Ph.Ds. Student nominators called Stamp an amazing lecturer who makes difficult topics easy to understand as well as interesting.