Berkeley’s top teaching honor goes to five faculty

Five outstanding UC Berkeley faculty have been selected as recipients of the 2012 Distinguished Teaching Award, the campus’s most prestigious honor for teaching. The award recognizes teaching that incites intellectual curiosity in students, engages them thoroughly in the enterprise of learning and has a lifelong impact.

“Every year, the announcement of the new distinguished teachers serves to remind us all that excellent teaching runs both deep and broad at Berkeley,” said Chancellor Robert Birgeneau in a congratulatory email. “We take great pride in the fact that we excel in both teaching and research.”

The five will be honored in a public ceremony on Wednesday, April 24, at 5 p.m. in the Zellerbach Playhouse.  And the honorees are:

Rauri Bowie

Rauri Bowie

Rauri Bowie, assistant professor in Integrative Biology

In the words of department chair John Huelsenbeck: “Rauri is impressive to me because of his mastery of the subject and his ability to take complex ideas and make them accessible to students… I’ve always thought that the best scientists — with some notable exceptions — make the best instructors; Rauri is an excellent example of such a person.”

What his students say: “Rauri is one of the reasons I want to go into ornithology after graduation”; “He makes you want to do well; easily the best professor I’ve ever had”; “Dr. Bowie sets students’ brains in motion by keeping one foot grounded in the tangible aspects of ornithology… and then challenging students to make deeper connections.”

Professor Bowie, on his teaching: It centers on three interlinked components: Integrating lectures with lab and field work; breaking down the “perceived barrier between professor and student”; and including “substantial written components” that he grades himself.

Recent work: More than 50 papers published since 2008.

Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby

Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby

Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby, professor of Art History

In the words of department chair Chris Hallett:  Grigsby “consistently challenges her students to grapple with the complexities of art history utilizing an energetic , dynamic speaking style combined with an unusual ability to connect with individual students even in very large lecture settings.”

What her students say: “An excellent lecturer — clear, intriguing, entertaining and intellectually provoking.” One student recalls the final day of Grigsby’s “Art in the Age of Revolution” class, when the professor told a joke about a painting the class had studied and the class got it, laughing both in appreciation of the joke and in pride of “our exclusive understanding of this art historical reference.” Grigsby, the student recounts, became quiet and then looked at them in pride, saying: “Oh my god, I’ve turned you into my people.”

Grigsby on her teaching: She is guided by her desire to let students know that she sees them and that she knows them. She wants their education to be experienced as an interpersonal relationship: “They need to know that we are in a room together and that we are all responsible for the learning that happens in that room.”

Latest book: Colossal Engineering (Reconnecting the Suez Canal, Statue of Liberty, Eiffel Tower and Panama Canal)

Timothy Hampton

Timothy Hampton

Timothy Hampton, professor of Comparative Literature and French

In the words of department chair Victoria Kahn: “Hampton is an uncommonly gifted teacher who is constantly striving to improve his teaching by embracing new technologies and intellectual approaches… “

What his students say: “One of the most exciting and generous professors at Cal”; “bottled lightning”; “[he] would have converted me into an  early modern scholar if I’d encountered the class earlier.”

Hampton, on his teaching: “The best classroom experience involves … a practice of guided stumbling. I prepare endlessly for my classes, not in order to impose my ‘mastery’ of a subject but to create frameworks within which my students and I can work together. Berkeley students are intellectually fearless… As a first-generation college student from a working-class background, I identify with their hunger for knowledge.”

Latest book: Fictions of Embassy: Literature and Diplomacy in Early Modern Europe

Terry Johnson

Terry Johnson

Terry Johnson, lecturer of Bioengineering

In the words of department chair Kevin Healy: Johnson is “an exemplary teacher whose enthusiasm, dedication and talent are an inspiration to both students and faculty … He has become an absolutely indispensable leader of the continuous improvement of our rapidly evolving bioengineering curriculum and advises more students than any other faculty member.”

What his students say: “I look forward to each class… If every professor were like you, people would never want to leave college.”

Johnson, on his teaching: “The material we cover is demanding, but it is also intellectually rewarding, and properly applied can lead to improvements in health and human welfare. At Berkeley, I’ve been given the opportunity to express my admiration for these concepts to a receptive and capable collection of students.”

Among his recent work: Co-author of How to Defeat Your Own Clone. Lead judge for Berkeley’s Pioneers in Engineering high-school robotics competition. Keynote speeches for Upward Bound and Berkeley Engineers and Mentors.

Ula Taylor

Ula Taylor

Ula Taylor, associate professor of African American Studies

In the words of department chair Na’ilah Nasir:  Taylor “draws students into engaging with challenging readings and historical documents… a lively and enthusiastic lecturer… [who] understands how to present material so that students gain a deeper understanding of both the material and the important historical concepts that they convey.”

What her students say: “Brilliant”; “engaging”; “funny”; “amazing.”

Taylor, on her teaching: She is committed to “students’ ability to form meaningful connections to the world around them, and it is at this precise moment that possibilities abound for self-reflection and human compassion. My pedagogy centers on doing my part to create classrooms filled with critical yet caring people.”

Among her recent work: Co-author, Panther: The Illustrated History of the Black Panther Movement and the Story Behind the Film.

More information about the award, including past winners and videos of previous awards ceremonies, can be found on the Distinguished Teaching Award website.