5 campus professors awarded 2015 Distinguished Teaching Award

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Five campus professors were awarded the 2015 Distinguished Teaching Award, the most esteemed teaching honor given to faculty by the campus, as announced in a campuswide email by Chancellor Nicholas Dirks on Tuesday.

English professor Kathleen Donegan; biology professor Daniel Feldman; finance and economics professor Ulrike Malmendier; comparative literature, Spanish and Portuguese professor Francine Masiello; and linguistics professor Lev Michael were chosen as recipients by the Academic Senate’s Committee on Teaching.

In his email, Dirks wrote that the announcement of the award serves as a reminder each year that excellence in teaching runs deep at UC Berkeley.

“We take great pride in the fact that we excel in both teaching and research,” he said.

First bestowed in 1959, the award recognizes professors who incite intellectual curiosity in students and engage them in their learning, according to the award guidelines and procedures. It has been given to 223 faculty members since its conception, with past recipients including astronomy professor Alex Filippenko, history professor Robin Einhorn and business professor Richard Lyons.

Michael, one of this year’s winners, said in an email that he felt humbled to join the ranks of previous winners, all of whom are impressive and inspiring.

“Lev Michael (was) one of the finest professors I had,” said Hamza Jaka, a former student of Michael’s, in an email. “He’s a professor who challenges and pushes his students, but he cares very deeply about (their) wellbeing.”

Masiello, another winner, said in an email that she was somewhat embarrassed when she was notified that she was an awardee.

“There are so many great teachers at Berkeley who really believe in the transformative work that takes place in the classroom, in the value of knowledge that we develop together, and in the community that students and teachers manage to assemble during the course of the semester,” she said.

Along with receiving a cash award, recipients are permanently indicated as distinguished teachers by UC Berkeley and are frequently called upon by the campus to serve on forums, panels and committees, according to the award website. Nominees for the award must have taught at least six regularly scheduled courses in the last eight semesters and must be nominated by a student or faculty member in their department. Only one candidate can be nominated in each department per year.

For Feldman, another winner, the most enjoyable aspect of teaching is when students begin to sift through facts and observations to realize connections to deeper principles.

“This often involves re-evaluating what it means to perceive, to act, and even to learn,” he said in an email.

Recipients will be honored at a ceremony at the Zellerbach Playhouse on April 21 at 5 p.m. According to Dirks’ email, the campus community is invited to attend.

Contact Cassie Ippaso at [email protected].

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