NEWS RELEASE, 04/15/98
UC Berkeley honors five distinguished teachers in April 28 ceremony
BERKELEY -- A dead frog in a writing class; students tied up in "Socratic knots," a cucumber in the business school. Teachers inspire students in many ways, and these are just a few of the creative approaches this year's recipients of the Distinguished Teaching Award at the University of California, Berkeley use to motivate and encourage their students.
The Committee on Teaching of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate has selected five faculty members to receive the 1998 Distinguished Teaching Award: Jesse Choper of law; Anne Haas Dyson of education; Donald Friedman of English; Patricia Jane Jones of College Writing Programs; and Richard Lyons of Haas School of business.
Recipients will be honored at a ceremony Tuesday, April 28, at 5 p.m. in Zellerbach Playhouse. Also honored will be the recipient of the Presidential Chair in Undergraduate Education, Ruth Tringham, professor of anthropology.
The ceremony will feature remarks by Chancellor Robert Berdahl, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Carol Christ, Academic Senate Chair William Oldham, and Alumni Association President Irene Miura.
The public is invited to the ceremony and a reception that follows in the Toll Room of Alumni House.
This year's winners are:
Jesse H. Choper
Recently, Jesse H. Choper, Earl Warren Professor of Public Law at Boalt Hall, spoke to a group of federal judges, one of whom had been a student of Choper's 30 years ago. The former student says, "At the conclusion of his remarks, I told him what I never thought I would hear myself saying, that listening to him speak made me actually miss being in law school."
Choper explains some of his teaching this way: "I take time in the opening class to describe my approach and why I use it, emphasizing that my purpose in pressing students hard in response to their views is not to make them look dull, but rather to indicate the great complexities of the problems, most of which have no real 'solutions.'"
A former student comments on this technique: "He is well- known for getting a student so tied up in a logical conundrum that the student ends up advocating a position diametrically opposed to the original premise. At the same time, the student manages to appreciate the predicament in which he now sits and can laugh at himself for becoming entangled in a Socratic knot."
Time and again, students and former students point to his combination of intellectual openness and rigor: "He engaged intellectually with each student during the semester. I'll never forget the line, 'What's your point?'" says one. And another says, "He made all ideas and viewpoints welcome. We struggled. We pondered. We laughed (a lot)."
One of the nation's foremost authorities in constitutional law and corporation law, and vice president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Choper joined the School of Law in 1965. He received his BS from Wilkes University and his LLB from the University of Pennsylvania.
Anne Haas Dyson
"She has answers and questions for everything," says one student of Anne Haas Dyson, a professor in the Graduate School of Education. The student's nice twist accurately describes Dyson's teaching style and her effect on students. They consistently refer to the way she links research, the real world, and their own variety of research topics, finding the common threads. And students often refer to her classes as "life-changing."
"I think intellectual, political and moral issues of teaching and learning are best understood - and grappled with," says Dyson, "when they are embodied in everyday human experiences of teachers and students, in and out of schools." One student commented on her "incredible incisiveness and insight and her other-worldly ability to give us at once the big and small picture."
A former student remembers that "Anne has a gift for choreographing classes that had students coming away astonished not so much by what Anne thought and knew (although we all knew that we were in the presence of an incomparable thinker), but by what we came to think and know ourselves."
Dyson herself echoes a sense of shared mission: "There is nothing lonelier than standing in front of a class when I'm not sure they are, intellectually, with me - and nothing is more satisfying than when we are all making progress together."
In the Graduate School of Education, course evaluations contain the question "What did you like least about this course?" On Dyson's evaluations, more than one student wrote, "That it's only one semester."
A specialist in early literacy development, Dyson joined Berkeley faculty in 1984. She received her BS in Elementary Education from the University of Wisconsin, and her Ph.D. in Education from the University of Texas, Austin.
"I believe that constant and vigorous engagement with one's subject is the foundation of good instruction," says Professor Donald Friedman of English. "So I read as much current scholarship, in books and journals, as I can."
Students are the recipients of this engagement and understand its power. Says one, "He is passionate about his work, and his incredible knowledge also adds to the effectiveness of his classes." Another student simply says, "Professor Friedman knows EVERYTHING."
In his classes, Friedman works to put the literature into context. "It is important for students to realize," he says, "that 'Shakespeare' and 'Milton' aren't the same as a set of ideas, but rather that they were individuals whose thinking changed over time in response to the events of their lives and to the history that was happening around them."
"I came away from the course," says a student, "feeling that I understood not just the poetry but the period in ways that I hadn't anticipated."
Students admire him not only for his knowledge but for his attention to them. A student says, "His interest in his students' thoughts was evident and joyful," and another admires his "sincere interest in the individual student, with the result that one always feels helped in one's project rather than intellectually bulldozed."
"It is people like Professor Friedman who distinguish Berkeley from 90 percent of other universities," says one student, and another adds that Friedman's greatest strength is "The sheer generosity with which he shares his erudition with graduate students and undergraduates alike."
A specialist in Milton, Shakespeare, and the 16th and 17th centuries, Friedman joined the English Department in 1961. He received a BA from Columbia College, a BA and MA from Trinity College, Cambridge, and his PhD from Harvard University.
Patricia Jane Jones
"In her classes reluctant writers become eager ones; worried writers gain confidence; and non-writers come to think of themselves as authors," says a colleague of Patricia Jane Jones of College Writing Programs.
"I want my students to understand that writing comes from life," says Jones. "So I send them to libraries, museums, Strawberry Creek, Telegraph Avenue. Then, using carefully chosen words, purposefully formed paragraphs, strategic organization, they can take their readers back to the street, the creek, the work of art, the complex text."
Students clearly respond to her teaching: "Instead of showing me how to write," says a former student, "Professor Jones showed me why to write."
But Jones recalls one of her less successful assignments: "We read a piece in an anthology and dove into the 'Questions for Discussion' at the end, dissecting this piece of
writing as if it were a dead frog in formaldehyde. We cut out the thesis and then dissected what remained. We ended up with not just a dead frog, but a mutilated frog. How did this inform their reading and their writing? It didn't." Such careful reflection is typical of Jones.
"Jane knows how to engage students with the reading," says a colleague, "and then challenge them to respond to it critically and write about it creatively."
For students, Jones' influence extends beyond the class: "Each time I pick up a book, I think of her because she made me realize the power of knowledge found in books. She opened the doors to different worlds." And another says, "She does a fabulous job of helping you help yourself."
Jones received her BA and MA from the University of New Mexico, and joined the College Writing Programs in 1984.
Richard K. Lyons
"Always" is a word that comes up frequently in comments about Richard K. Lyons, Haas School of Business. "Always had time for questions"; "always available for appointments"; "always prepared"; "always enthusiastic."
Lyons' knowledge, his boundless enthusiasm and his attention to the needs of his students are cited over and over again. "The fact that you really care about us and our experience in the course shows in absolutely everything you do. Live long and prosper," says a student.
"His enthusiasm for the subject matter and his communications skills make for a level of dynamism that is hard for most professors to achieve on their best days in the classroom. He does it day in and day out," says a colleague.
Lyons, a specialist in international finance and trading in the foreign exchange markets, says, "When teaching undergrads, I keep in mind a phrase I read years ago: 'The primary purpose of a liberal education is to make one's mind a pleasant place in which to spend one's time.'" Says a student, "I left class not only with a much deeper understanding of the subject, but also a feeling of empowerment: that I could now tackle bigger and more challenging problems."
Lyons sees an added dimension to teaching PhD candidates: "PhD interaction is as much about communicating values as it is about developing critical thinking. I value honesty in the classroom. I value mutual respect. I value intellectual curiosity and creativity."
Says a student, "If Rich were teaching 'The Influence of the Cucumber in American Business,' I would take it."
Lyons joined the Haas School of Business faculty in 1993. He received
his BS from Berkeley and his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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