3 professors win 2014 Distinguished Teaching Award

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Last week, three campus professors were selected as recipients of the 2014 Distinguished Teaching Award, the most esteemed teaching honor given to faculty on campus.

Professor Eugene Chiang from the Astronomy and Earth and Planetary Science departments, associate professor Munis Faruqui from the South and Southeast Asian Studies department and associate professor Ron Hassner from the Political Science department were chosen by the Academic Senate Committee on Teaching for their consistent excellence in teaching, announced in a campuswide email by Chancellor Nicholas Dirks on Thursday.

First bestowed in 1959, the award has honored about 250 faculty members since, with past recipients including history professor Robin Einhorn, astronomy professor Alex Filippenko and Haas School of Business professor Richard Lyons.

Along with receiving a cash award, recipients are labeled as “Distinguished Teachers” in the course catalog and are invited to participate in various forums, panels and committees.

The two-stage selection process for the award began in the middle of fall, when departments submitted nominations after considering student and faculty input. The committee additionally reviewed grade distribution charts, raw student evaluations and a personal teaching statement.

Having taught a variety of astrophysics courses from introductory lectures to graduate seminars over the past 12 years, Chiang specializes in theoretical astrophysics, focusing on understanding the origin and evolution of planetary systems — both our solar system and beyond.

“It’s recognition that I’m doing something right,” Chiang said. “It’s very nice after a long journey … to receive some dessert at the end.”

While Chiang studies the planets, Faruqui, who joined campus faculty in 2005, specializes in the Muslim experience in South Asia.

“Teaching is an invitation to undertake an exhilarating journey in which no conversation is taboo, no opinion too ridiculous to debate,” Faruqui said in a statement on the Center for Teaching and Learning website.

Hassner, who like Faruqui came to UC Berkeley in 2005, is part of the relatively new multidisciplinary field of religious studies and political science, studying how religious ideas and practices shape international conflicts.

He expressed gratitude for his graduate student instructors for acting as the link between him and his students, likening himself to an “officer” deploying his GSIs as sergeants to work with the soldiers, or students, “in the trenches.”

Jason Klocek, who has been a GSI for Hassner three times, described Hassner as supportive and dedicated, frequently extending his office hours to as late as 10 p.m.

“What separates him most … is his ability to inspire independent and original thinking by conveying enthusiasm and empowering students to become invested in their studies,” Klocek said in an email.

The three awardees will be celebrated with a ceremony on April 23 at 5 p.m. in Zellerbach Playhouse. A reception will take place afterward at the Alumni House. Both are open to the campus community.

Contact Heyun Jeong at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @heyunjeong

Clarification(s):
A previous version of this article stated that the Distinguished Teaching Award is the most esteemed honor given to faculty on campus. In fact, the award is the most esteemed teaching honor given to faculty on campus.