Four professors win 2010 Distinguished Teaching Awards

The University of California, Berkeley’s 2010 Distinguished Teaching Award, the campus’s top honor for exceptional teaching, is being awarded today (Thursday, April 22) to four professors in the fields of computer science, linguistics, engineering and business.

The awards will be presented in a ceremony that will begin at 5 p.m. at the Zellerbach Playhouse on campus. A reception in nearby Alumni House will follow. Both events are free and open to the public.

This year’s recipients — chosen by their peers and students — are Dan Klein, an associate professor in the computer science division of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; Line Mikkelsen, assistant professor of linguistics; Juan M. Pestana-Nascimento, a professor of civil and environmental engineering; and Teck-Hua Ho, the William Halford Jr. Family Professor of Marketing at the Haas School of Business.

The awards will be presented in a ceremony that will begin at 5 p.m. at the Zellerbach Playhouse on campus. A reception in nearby Alumni House will follow. Both events are free and open to the public.

Dan Klein explores automatic organization of natural language information and is teaching an undergraduate class this semester on artificial intelligence. Mikkelsen’s research interest centers on the syntax, semantics and morphology of natural language, and most of her work concerns the Danish and English languages.

Pestana-Nascimento’s work involves geotechnical engineering, environmental geotechnics and geotechnical earthquake engineering. Ho is the director of the Haas School’s Asia Business Center and chair of the Haas Marketing Group. His research interests include behavioral and experimental economics, pricing strategy and consumer choice models, and the interface of marketing and operations.

The DTA award winners

The 2010 Distinguished Teaching Award winners (clockwise, from top left): Line Mikkelsen, Teck-Hua Ho, Dan Klein, and Juan Pestana-Nascimento. (Peg Skorpinski photos)

Steve Tollefson, director of UC Berkeley’s Office of Educational Development, visited classes taught by this year’s recipients to announce the winners and invite students to today’s events. He said the touch of anxiety he experienced before the classroom stops proved unfounded.

“Students do not always wear their hearts on their sleeves, and not every student loves a teacher, even when the vast majority do,” Tollefson said. “But in each class, the students erupted into wild applause, as well as hoots and calls. It was clear that this award was something they thought their professor deserved. It was really quite wonderful.”

The Distinguished Teaching Award is bestowed annually by the UC Berkeley division of the UC Academic Senate’s Committee on Teaching, which is comprised of faculty members and students. The award was instituted in 1959, and only 236 professors have received it to date.

The goal is to recognize faculty members whose sustained excellent teaching and student guidance that incites intellectual curiosity in students, inspires their colleagues, and makes students aware of significant relationships between the academy and the larger world.

Previous recipients include Christina Romer, a professor of economics now who heads President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers; Haas School Dean Emeritus Earl “Bud” Cheit; integrative biologist Marion Diamond; historian Leon Litwack, philosopher John Searle; and law professor and 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judicial nominee Goodwin Liu. A complete list of awardees is on the Web.

Related information

•  Words of wisdom from the 2010 Distinguished Teaching Award winners.

•  Statements by past Distinguished Teaching Award recipients about their teaching philosophies.