Campus recognizes innovative, dedicated teachers

The Academic Senate’s Committee on Teaching (COT) in collaboration with Chancellor Cynthia Larive and CP/EVC Lori Kletzer, celebrated UCSC’s innovative and dedicated teachers with a gathering at the Cowell Provost House in early June.  This event, the first after COVID-19 forced the suspension of in-person celebrations, honored not only the 2021-2022 Excellence in Teaching recipients but also the awardees from the past two years (2019-20 & 2020-2021).  Additionally, it celebrated the recipients of the recently established Distinguished Teaching Award.  Lastly, Jody Greene, Associate Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning and Michael Tassio, Director of Online Education, were also presented with an Distinguished Achievement Award for the wisdom, agility, and tireless efforts in guiding the UC Santa Cruz community to “keep learning and keep teaching” during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Committee on Teaching is delighted to announce the 8 recipients of this prestigious campus-wide award from all five divisions for the 2021-22 academic year. Annually, the committee receives  approximately 400 student nominations and selects 7-10 instructors. The student comments about the impact their excellent pedagogical practices have had on their lives were inspiring for COT to read. COT  appreciates their contribution to the important mission of teaching on our campus and is grateful for the opportunity to showcase their accomplishments. 

micha cárdenas, Associate Professor, Arts, Games and Playable Media

“micha was overwhelmingly gracious and compassionate to me as a student. she started each class by empowering us and encouraging a class of mostly trans students and students of color to take up space, to be vulnerable with another, and to be receptive of each other's critique, care, and guidance. micha made us all feel as though that the time we shared in our seminar belonged to each other and what we were able to offer each other in that time was precious. micha, through this class, made me feel like i have something more to give to myself and my community. in class, we "rehearsed for the revolution" and experimented and exercised a world that gave trans people of color more. we had the opportunity to return our agency to ourselves. micha encouraged our seminar to return to our power, and she is absolutely deserving of the highest praise.”

David Draper, Professor, Statistics

“I loved how professor draper was able to connect concepts that were very abstract to real world happenings. If there was something in the news that someone found that mentioned statistics or something we had gone over, he would spend at lengths engaging with the topic. He was always available to answer questions and went far beyond what any other teacher I have had in terms of helping students. He made sure to cover every element in tests and quizzes. During a time of zoom university burn out, he kept me engaged and going to watch his lectures. You can see his passion in his subject and his desire for us as students to succeed.”

Elena Finkbeiner, Adjunct Faculty, Coastal Science and Policy

“Elena's classes were by far the highlight of last quarter, and I can say from many conversations that my classmates and I looked forward to her lectures every week. Tasked with covering the broad discipline of “social sciences,” she did an excellent job providing a breadth of knowledge, while also allowing us to dig deep into the intricacies and complexities of being a social science researcher in conservation. Her own background in this field, combined with her obvious passion for advancing interdisciplinary social science, made class even more enjoyable, as we were able to witness the ways the concepts we were learning about could be interrogated, adapted, and applied to different conservation scenarios. In addition to being extremely knowledgeable, Elena is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met, and her welcoming and joyous personality created a classroom environment where I felt comfortable sharing my opinions, engaging in discussions, and asking questions (this cannot be said of every class I’ve been in). I left Elena’s class with not only foundational knowledge in social sciences, but a new perspective on the work I’m planning to do in the future. I mean this with no exaggeration when I say that Elena is an inspiration, and because of her I will strive to continue learning and improving as an interdisciplinary scientist.”

Kyle Robertson, Continuing Lecturer, Philosophy 

“Kyle is one of the most amazing professors I have ever had. Before I took ethics bowl I was unsure what I wanted to do once I left school and where I wanted to go. Kyle’s class put me on the track I’m on now. I fell in love with ethics because of this class and the way he taught. So much so that I went and joined the ethics bowl team and am joining again in the fall. Kyle is an amazing professor, coach and mentor.”

Brenda Sanfilippo, Continuing Lecturer, Writing Program 

“The teacher made an excellent job turning what could have been an impersonal, online course into an online classroom by making videos where she showed her face, having class discussion boards and having required zoom meetings. This made the class feel more interactive. Moreover, feedback was very well developed on every single assignment, which made students feel supported and showed instructor cared about their learning.”

Gina Athena Ulysse, Professor, Feminist Studies 

“The Professor was very engaging with the class and was also very understanding. She let us engage with the material in numerous different ways such as artistic representation readings, videos, lectures and she asked broad philosophical questions that we would revisit throughout the quarter. She taught me a lot about the history of black feminism and how not much has change throughout the history of black feminist movements. She even used her own research to express these ideas of how vast they really can be as well as the Ted talk she gave which was very moving. I absolutely loved taking the class and if I could I would take more classes from her but this is my last quarter.”

Peter Weiss,  Continuing Lecturer, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Ron Ruby Award Recipient

“Peter Weiss showed a lot of passion both towards chemistry as a subject (thus increasing my engagement) and towards actually teaching that chemistry to students. His course was clear in expectations and had multiple ways I could access to enhance learning, and has been one of my most enjoyable experiences with chemistry. His use of online resources (WebAssign) felt actually integrated into the course for actual understanding rather than offloading work. His class made me feel actually prepared for OChem and was part of my decision in deciding to continue in a major that required it.”

Daniel Wirls, Professor, Politics

“Professor Wirls always made sure that every single person in class felt supported and really helped us understand that he was more interested in making sure we succeeded in his class than trying to make things purposely tricky or complex. It was really evident that he cared about all of his students and if they comprehended the course content. He was always willing to give advice, tell anecdotes about his time in the political sphere, and answer any questions we had about his lectures. His lectures would always be edited just before class started to make sure they were as accurate as possible, as well as easy to understand. He made the class accessible and engaging by providing course materials for free and starting each lecture off with music, a clever introduction to whichever political figure or time period we would focus on. Professor Wirls truly cares about the subject and the students at UCSC and deserves to be recognized for the hard work he puts into improving his course and his students.”