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Teaching Excellence Awardees

Phi Beta Kappa takes teaching very seriously. That is why the Northern California Association makes annual Teaching Excellence Awards to up to five outstanding teachers who are faculty members at one of the eight Northern California universities and colleges that harbor PBK chapters. 

These awards are conferred to honor those who have been outstanding teachers and mentors in the opinion of members of ΦBKNCA. They are those who have taught an especially memorable course, or who have had a special impact on the education, career, life, or who have been found inspiring or particularly admirable by a ΦBKNCA member.

From 1989 to 2015 we have honored 108 excellent teachers!

How do I nominate a teacher?
The online nomination form is available here and a hardcopy version is printed in the newsletter (but we prefer the online version). Applications are due late fall, but make them now while memory is fresh! A nomination consists of a filled-out form, plus an account of why you think a nominee deserves recognition as an outstanding teacher.

Each awardee receives a handsome certificate, invitation to the Annual Awards Dinner, and a modest honorarium ($1000 in recent years). Even those worthy nominees who do not receive awards are almost always delighted to have been nominated.

 Any member of ΦBK may make nominations; the nominee need not be. Please note that eligibility for the award is limited to faculty members at the Northern California schools housing Phi Beta Kappa Chapters (see this page). All Phi Beta Kappa members are cordially invited to submit nominations; the online nomination form is available here, A printable form can be obtained here, but we prefer that you use the electronic form. The printed form may be published in the September issue of the Newsletter. More information can be obtained from the Teaching Excellence Chair.

Which schools are included?

2018 Laureates

Jon D. Rossini, Department of Theatre and Dance, UC Davis Ron E. Hassner, Department of Political Science, UC Berkeley (Hasenkamp Award)

"the quality of critical analysis and innovation in Ron's courses always exceeds expectations."


Kinch Hoekstra, Department of Political Science, UC Berkeley Kinch Hoekstra, Department of Political Science, UC Berkeley

"it helps that he also brings to every discussion an additional layer of philosophical discussion that reaches well beyond the historical confines of any text the class reads."


Naomi Janowitz, Department of Religious Studies, UC DavisNaomi Janowitz, Department of Religious Studies, UC Davis

"Every student must attend her office hour at least once and give feed back on the class"


Martha Olney, Department of Economics, UC BerkeleyMartha Olney, Department of Economics, UC Berkeley

"she is capable of breaking down complicated economics concepts into pieces that are easy to understand and connect to the real world."


Jon D. Rossini, Department of Theatre and Dance, UC Davis Jon D. Rossini, Department of Theatre and Dance, UC Davis

"He is committed to teaching students not only about theatre history, but about what theatre can do in the present and in the future."

2017 Laureates

Eligible nominees are faculty members of the eight universities and colleges in Northern California that harbor ΦBK Chapters (Mills College, San Francisco State University, Santa Clara University, Stanford University, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, or University of the Pacific). All faculty members at these eight Phi Beta Kappa institutions are eligible.

The online nomination form is available here and a hardcopy version is printed in the newsletter (but we prefer the online version). Applications are due late fall, but make them now while memory is fresh! A nomination consists of a filled-out form, plus an account of why you think a nominee deserves recognition as an outstanding teacher.

K. Alexa Koenig, School of Law, UC Berkeley (Hasenkamp Award) K. Alexa Koenig, School of Law, UC Berkeley (Hasenkamp Award)

"She realizes that cultivating her students' curriculum about human rights issues is the sine qua non of preserving and contributing to the progress of the human rights movement.

Mary Beth Mudgett, Department of Biology, Stanford UniversityMary Beth Mudgett, Department of Biology, Stanford University

"Instead of passively listening to Dr. Mudgett instruct us on the characteristics of plants , we spent time investigating the properties of different plants at stations carefully designed by Professor Mudgett."

 Jennifer E. Smith, Department of Biology, Mills College Jennifer E. Smith, Department of Biology, Mills College

"One of the very special things about studying the sciences at Mills College is that there are so many strong women faculty to look up to, learn from and collaborate with. Dr. Smith is an important member of that group. It was inspiring to have her at the front of the classroom, in the hallways of the science building, and even just around campus walking her dogs."


2016 Laureates

not presentClaude Goldenberg, Department of Education, Stanford University

This is one of (if not the most) outstanding professors I have ever had. Over the course of the 6 months that I knew him, he offered to direct my individual studies in a field that I was passionate about where no classes were currently being offered. He challenged and inspired me to constantly improve my work and my analyses, not for the sake of a grade, but in order to make our work useful for our community. We ended up co-authoring a piece on bilingual education together and publishing it in American Educator. His generosity with his time and willingness to mentor An undergraduate student are things I will never forget.

Robert Goldman, Department of East and South East Asian Studies, University of California, BerkeleyRobert Goldman, Department of East and South East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley

… his passion for the subject, skillful teaching, and the course's interesting content were enough. That was enough to get me excited every morning to wake up and go to class. Very few classes at Berkeley had that effect on me. This man took a fairly dry subject (ancient literature/world religion) and made it really interesting.

He was a huge help to the Berkeley Student Journal of Asian Studies, a student-run academic journal that I led for the past two years. Over just three years, he reviewed and edited 5 of the 17 papers...including my own.

Alessa Johns, Department of English, University of California. DavisAlessa Johns, Department of English, University of California. Davis

Whenever I offer an opinion in class, I find her challenging my ideas and asking for another example or a broader significance. This direct intercourse of ideas and thoughts is unique to Professor John's teaching style and promotes deeper, critical thinking in her students.


not presentJustin Whittall, Department of Biology, Santa Clara University (Hasenkamp Award)

Justen, however, is truly special among the ranks of teacher.  He expects more of undergraduates, and almost always, they deliver. Especially in upper division courses, he offers students the problems that he is currently mulling over at the beginning of the quarter, and they work through them with him for ten weeks, contextualizing lecture material in scientific practice. My current PhD thesis is an outgrowth of an inquiry I began in one of his courses, So certainly the work he gives undergraduates is in no way “dumbed down.

Early in my time with his lab, we had to take a short walk across campus so Justen could show me where to find some administrative location I needed to be familiar with. As we walked, we passed the old mission wall, some of which is still intact from its original construction. He remarked that iIt was an aspiration of his to take a sample from that wall, so that we could understand what the native grass communities of California looked like when the Spanish missionaries first settled the area.  We could learn so much, he told me, about human history and plant invasions and maybe even building practices.


2015 Laureates

Petra Dierkes-ThrumPetra Dierkes-Thrun,Comparative Literature, Stanford University

Petra is certainly one of the most remarkable teachers - I have encountered at Stanford, both academically and personally. In fact, I can think of no one better to nominate for this honor.  Moreover, Petra is on the frontline of transforming the way education is conducted both in the classroom and through digital media. More than any other professor I have worked with in the humanities, Petra embraces new, emerging modes of teaching and communication via social media like Facebook, Twitter, and other online platforms. For instance, I know from personal participation and also from regular correspondence with Petra that she has been quite successful designing and implementing digital pedagogy and blended learning in her classes at Stanford, and is doing things literally no other humanities professor is doing right now, namely taking the online medium seriously as a way not only to  package old humanities content in new ways, but to excite students about  learning in and with the public and connecting with the world about literature.  She has also been very active presenting her work in this emerging field at conferences and other universities, to help inspire other traditional humanities teachers to start experimenting and make the literature classroom relevant and exciting for students in new ways.


not presentEmily Gottreich, Department of Middle Eastern Studies, University of California, Berkeley

Comments: Professor Emily Gottreich is the single most influential teacher with whom I engaged during my college career. She both demanded and inspired excellence in all of her students. Rote memorization was insufficient in her classes, rather, she pushed us to critically think about our texts, make connections across themes and history, and actively participate in our classes.  All of her students knew that we could not float by unnoticed in her classes: she would come readily prepared with intriguing lectures and would include everyone in the class in theoretical discussions that required us to develop our own thoughts. She dealt with difficult and complex world issues, and taught us to ask questions and inquire about the Middle East with curiosity and fervor.
 She also took on additional work to aid student organizations, and was instrumental in developing the Olive Tree Initiative (OTI) organization, a student club which focused on education, peace building, and cross-cultural engagement around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Additionally, she helped fundraise for events and even helped initiate the preparatory accredited classes for the OTI summer Middle East delegations.


Margherita Heyer-CaputMargherita Heyer-Caput, Department of French and Italian, University of California, Davis

She is in charge of one of my campus's study abroad programs (the Quarter Abroad program in Florence, Italy). When she came into my Italian 1 class during my sophomore year to talk about this program, I immediately knew that I wanted to be a part of it. Professor Heyer-Caput is a native Italian and has a very clear passion for the country, its culture, and its language. Her passion is what inspired me to want to study abroad and learn more about all of these things. My time spent studying abroad in Florence was amazing and incredibly rewarding. I feel like I gained so much from the experience, and I have Professor Heyer-Caput to thank for this. In addition, she also taught an Italian film studies class that I took while I was abroad, a class which I greatly enjoyed and learned a lot from, even though I had no prior knowledge of film studies.


Victoria C. PlautVictoria C. Plaut, School of Law, University of California, Berkeley

I remember taking my first course with Professor Plaut in the fall of 2012. On the first day of class her credentials struck me; she embodied what I could one day be with my own dual-degree in Psychology and Legal Studies. Previously I considered the overlap of the subjects intuitive yet unexplored. Throughout the semester, she slowly uncovered an entire field that was founded on both of my interests. To find the intersection of your passions and academics is a powerful thing.

Professor Plaut’s course left me with several lasting impressions. First, how incredibly smart she was. Her command of the classroom and our interests coupled with her immense knowledge and kind demeanor catapulted the course to the top of my favorites list. Secondly, I began to understand how vulnerable and unaware humans are of our prevailing, conditioned psyche. Never before had I been so acutely aware of the social biases permeating every surrounding institution and my very own mind. Third, I realized how important it was to tailor information to your audience. Professor Plaut uniquely communicated otherwise intimidating empirical findings to an untrained audience so we could understand how this data supported standing Psychological theories and legal rulings. And finally, Professor Plaut was the first professor who challenged us to answer the “so what?” What could we do with these findings? How were they applicable to other students at Cal? What are the best ways to communicate these findings? Can they effectively inform policy decisions? These exercises both challenged and excited me; I was experiencing the critical-thinking aspect of education that Cal prides itself on.


2014 Laureates

Andrius Galisanka, Department of Polticial Science, University of California, Berkeley

The way he teaches political theory is also very distinct. For each theorist, rather than just going over the facts, he really places himself and the class in the place of the theorist's shoes. He taught us how to find the key argument of the theorist, how he came about to that conclusion, and decide for ourselves that theory is plausible or not. He taught us how to argue for and against the theorists' arguments by understanding them first.


Julie Anne Kennedy, Department of Environmental Earth System Science, Stanford University

Julie pushes Earth Systems students to 1) deepen their passions, and 2) merge their academic and personal interests within community-oriented projects. In her Senior Seminar course, I was able to help a non-profit organization in East Palo Alto build a sustainable business model for the East Palo Alto farmer’s market.

Patricia Simone, Department of Psychology, Santa Clara University

She stands out because of her expertise in the fields of psychology, and in the subfield of gerontology, for her dedication to her students and to her memory research. And for her involvement in the Santa Clara community. She works closely with the Santa Clara Senior Center in a community based learning project having students compile a video for a senior on his or her most important reflections. Dr. Simone was a speaker at our Asilomar Conference in February 2015.


Dari Sylvester, Department of Political Science, University of the Pacific

In my first class with Dr. Sylvester, I could tell that the other students were scared. Not because she was in any way scary, but because she was challenging them to work hard and learn. The class was full of soon to graduate seniors; they all wanted to glide through their last general education requirement (Pacific Seminar 3, a class on philosophy and ethics required for all majors). Dr. Sylvester was not going to let her class slip through, but instead asked them to think critically about their world, like what balance of utilitarian philosophy verses deontological ethics was best .


2013 Laureates

Terri BimesTerri Bimes, Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley

I am currently wrapping up a year-long research project, which is a senior honors thesis in Political Science. Throughout the project Professor Bimes has been a constant source of guidance and support. I am tremendously proud of the work that I have done—I consider my thesis as the culminating highlight of my undergraduate education—but I could not have done it alone. Professor Bimes was there every step of the way.
J. Mira KopellJ. Mira Kopell, Department of Film and Media Studies, University of California, Berkeley

Mira Kopell is an instructor who is incredibly dedicated to her students. I have had the privilege to take four courses with her including an independent study course in which she had worked tirelessly to aid me in my development as a future film maker. She has inspired me to become a screen writer, and has always encouraged me in my craft. I am deeply indebted to her as an instructor and can honestly say she has changed my life.
Richard MitchellRichard Mitchell, Department of Mathematics, University of California, Santa Cruz

Richard Mitchell’s teaching comprised my entire undergraduate calculus education. In his courses we proved everything. We took no assumption for granted. I am extremely lucky and honored to have had Richard Mitchell as a lecturer in mathematics at UC Santa Cruz because he laid in my mind the strongest foundation of basic calculus principles possible. His board presentation was beautiful and his representation of 3D surfaces art.
Patricia PludePatricia Plude, Department of Music, Santa Clara University

I cannot conclude this summary without sharing with you how important her music improvisation class was for my classmates and me. Though outside mycomfort zone, I signed up for Music Improvisation (this was the first time this class was offered). Professor Plude crafted this class with great sensitivity, flexibility and creativity. Each student experienced a transformation during the course of 10 weeks. Though her students were apprehensive at first, she created a judgment-free space in which her students felt comfortable to experiment and play.
Priya Mariana ShimpiPriya Mariana Shimpi, Department of Education, Mills College

What I look for in a teacher/professor is someone who will make me see the world in a different way. It may not be a huge change but every little change contributes to a wider world view. Priya has encouraged me to explore diversity in early childhood education and to take an inquiry stance as an educator. It is because of Priya that I will never stop evaluating and reflecting on my teaching. There is a great deal to be learned from our students and Priya makes sure that her students are poised to be always learning.


2012 Laureates

  Judith Dunbar, Department of English, Santa Clara University
  Kerry A. Enright, School of Education, University of California, Davis
  Cynthia Ostberg, Department of Political Science, University of the Pacific
  Amy Randall, Department of History, Santa Clara University

2011 Laureates

Robin Einhorn, Department of History, University of California, Berkeley

Ramona Naddaff, Rhetoric Department, University of California, Berkeley

Kim Magowan, English Literature, Mills College, Oakland

Teresa E. Steele, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Davis

Darren Zook, Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley
Recipient of a 2006 Teaching Excellence award


2010 Laureates

Judith L. Bishop, Department of Women’s Studies and Religion, Mills College

Kristin Lagatutta, Psychology Department, University of California, Davis

Richard Muller, Department of Physics, University of California, Berkeley

Patrick Y. Chuang, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz


2009 Laureates

Kathryn Olmsted, Department of History, UC Davis

Noah Guynn, Department of French and Italian, UC Davis

William James Stover, Department of Political Science, University of Santa Clara


2008 Laureates

Dr. John G. Forte - Department of Molecular and Cell Biology - UC Berkeley

Dr. Arthur Havenner - Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics - UC Davis

Dr. Garrison Sposito - College of Natural Resources, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management - UC Berkeley

Dr. Elizabeth Tallent - English Department - Stanford


2007 Laureates

Keenly aware of the great worth of learning and of the extraordinary gifts, diligence and amplitude of spirit that mark the best in teaching, the Phi Beta Kappa Northern California Association takes pleasure in conferring its 2007 Teaching Excellence Awards upon four distinguished teachers:

Professor John Boe, University Writing Program, University of California, Davis

Professor Paul Groth, Department of Geography, University of California, Berkeley

Professor Masahiko Minami, Department of Foreign Languages, California State University, San Francisco

Professor Ananya Roy, College of Environmental Design, University of California, Berkeley


2006 Laureates

William Parent, Professor of Philosophy, Santa Clara University

Recommended by Ausra Pumpuris: “I enrolled in Dr. Parent’s Informal Logic course during the summer solely because my friends held him in such high esteem as a professor. … Dr. Parent captivated the class, challenging and encouraging his students to re-evaluate their former misuse of speech. …”

Don Price, Professor of History, University of California, Davis

Recommended by Caleb Gilbert: “Don Price is an exceptional teacher. His assignments are interesting and fun to do; the assignments not only teach the material but they encourage students to go the extra mile and learn more. …”

Neil Schore, Professor of Chemistry, University of California, Davis

Recommended by Stephanie M. Stalla: “Before I took Dr. Schore’s class I hated organic chemistry. … Dr. Schore, unlike my previous professors, was able to explain all the material in a simple (but not oversimplified) and effective manner. … you could always tell he wanted everyone to do well in his class; he even re-graded the exams himself.”

David Stronach, Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Archaeology, University of California, Berkeley

Recommended by Laura Steele: “Of all my professors and advisors at UC Berkeley, Prof. Stronach has provided the most support, both academic and personal. He is a most effective teacher of graduate seminars, in which he manages to be both gentle and firm, both caring and demanding, and above all he interacts with all his graduate students (and indeed, undergraduates, based on what I’ve seen) as colleagues and as peers. ...”

Darren Zook, Professor of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley

Recommended by Cameron Bensonsmith: “Darren Zook is an incredible teacher. He has a gift for careful detailed analysis and a passion for imparting knowledge to his students in such a way that they will find their own forms of charitable good works and humanitarian advocacy, whether it be in their career choices or their extracurricular activities. ...”

2005 Laureates

Jonah Levy, Political Science, UC Berkeley

Armin Rosencranz,
Human Biology, Stanford

Andrew Workman,
History, Mills College

2004 Laureates

David W. Johnson, Instructor
Department of Economics
Stanford University

Kristin Luker, Professor
Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program
UC Berkeley

Jody Maxmin, Professor
Department of Art and Art History
Stanford University

Marijane Osborn, Professor
Department of English
UC Davis

Daniel R Palleros, Professor
Department of Chemistry and Biochcemistry
UC Santa Cruz

John R. Wallace, Professor
Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
UC Berkeley

The awards were conferred at the Annual Dinner on May 2, 2004.

2003 Laureates

Alexander Aiken, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
University of California, Berkeley

Margaret Conkey, Professor of Anthropology
University of California, Berkeley

Scott Gronert, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
San Francisco State University

Caroline M. Kane, Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology
University of California, Berkeley

Eve Sweetser, Professor of Linguistics
University of California, Berkeley

The awards were conferred at the Annual Dinner on May 4, 2003.

2002 Laureates

Michelle Fillion, Professor of Music
Mills College

H. Bradley Shaffer, Professor of Evolution and Ecology
University of California, Davis

Alan Taylor, Professor of History
University of California, Davis

Steven Vogel, Associate Professor of Political Science
University of California, Davis

The awards were conferred at the Annual Dinner on May 4, 2002.

2001 Laureates

Keenly aware of the great worth of learning and of the extraordinary gifts, diligence, and amplitude of spirit that mark the best in teaching, the Phi Beta Kappa Northern California Association takes pleasure in conferring its 2001 Teaching Excellence Awards upon three distinguished teachers:

Oliver Johns, Department of Physics and Astronomy
San Francisco State University

Deborah Nolan, Professor of Statistics
University of California, Berkeley

John Diamond, Professor of Law, Hastings College of the Law and Lecturer at Boalt Hall, School of Law
University of California, Berkeley

The awards were conferred at the Annual Meeting on May 12, 2001

2000 Laureates

This year, the Teaching Excellence Committee, consisting of Leon Fisher (Chairperson), Lawrence Lerner, Ellen Weaver and Madeleine Babin chose four extraordinary teachers:

Marco Conti, Professor, School of Medicine Division of Reproductive Biology, Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Stanford University

Anne Middleton, Professor of English University of California, Berkeley

Jonathan Marks, Visiting Associate Professor of Anthropology University of California, Berkeley

Manfred Wolf, Professor of English San Francisco State University

The awards were conferred at the Annual Meeting on May 13, 2000

1999 Laureates 

The Teaching Excellence Committee, consisting of Ellen Weaver (Chairperson), Leon Fisher, Lawrence S. Lerner, and Philip Persky chose the following excellent teachers:. Awards were presented at the May 15, 1999 Annual Meeting.

Thomas H. Lee, Professor of Electrical Engineering, Stanford University

Barbara Tversky, Professor of Psychology, Stanford University

Rachelle Waksler, Professor of English, San Francisco State University

Quentin C. Williams, Professor of Earth Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz

1998 Laureates

The Teaching Excellence Committee, consisting of Lawrence Lerner (Chairperson), Leon Fisher and Ellen Weaver chose three extraordinary teachers: 

Martin Covington, Professor of Psychology at UC Berkeley, 

Cynthia Scheinberg, Assistant Professor of English at Mills College,

Philip Zimbardo, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University.

The awards were conferred at the Annual Dinner on June 6. 

1997 Laureates

In June of 1997, Teaching Excellence Awards went to

Professor David Hollinger (History) at UC Berkeley

Professor Cheri Pies (Public Health) at UC Berkeley. Professor Pies had been a 1992 Scholarship winner as well. 

Professor Brinda Mehta (Foreign Languages and Literature) at Mills College.

1996 Laureates

Richard J. Hoffman, History, San Francisco State

H. Mack Horton, East Asian Languages, UC Berkeley

Timothy J. Lukes, Political Science, Santa Clara

Raouel Rivera Pinderhughes, Urban Studies, San Francisco State

1995 Laureates

Barbara T. Christian, African American Studies, UC Berkeley

Deborah M. Gordon, Biological Sciences, Stanford

David Matsumoto, Psychology, San Francisco State

Elaine C. Tennant, German, UC Berkeley

1994 Laureates

Andrew E. Barshay, History, UC Berkeley

Peter Evans, Sociology, UC Berkeley

Donald M. Friedman, English, UC Berkeley

William KMuir, Political Science, UC Berkeley

Julio Ramos, Spanish, UC Berkeley

1993 Laureates

Margaret Conkey, Anthropology, UC Berkeley

John Heath, Classics, Santa Clara

Cynthia Polecritti, History, UC Santa Cruz

Susan Schweik, English, UC Berkeley

1992 Laureates

Louise George Clubb, Italian and Comparative Literature, UC Berkeley

Mary-Ann Lutzker, Asian Art History, Mills

Susan Mann, History, UC Davis

Leo Ortiz, Biology, UC Santa Cruz

1991 Laureates

Philip C. Hanawalt, Biological Sciences, Stanford

Jody Maxmin, Art and Classics, Stanford

1990 Laureates

James G. Propp, Mathematics, UC Berkeley

Erich Gruen, Roman History, UC Berkeley

Edith Yang, Chinese and Japanese, San Francisco State

Katherine Milton, Anthropology, UC Berkeley

1989 Laureates

Daniel Heartz, Music, UC Berkeley

Paul G. Fitzgerald, Human Anatomy, UC Davis

Marilyn R. Chandler, English, Mills

*The Phi Beta Kappa Society maintains a Membership Info Page which may be consulted for further information about election to Phi Beta Kappa.