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 2020 we have honored 164 excellent teachers!

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 at ExcellenceInTeachingAwardNomination.pdf 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.

How do I nominate a Teacher?

An online Nomination Form is available and a hardcopy version is available ExcellenceInTeachingAwardNomination.pdf (but we prefer the online version). Applications are due November 30, 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.

What schools are included?

All faculty members at the eight Phi Beta Kappa institutions  - Mills College, San Francisco State University, Santa Clara University, Stanford University, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, or University of the Pacific will be eligible. The online ExcellenceInTeachingAwardNomination.pdf  is available on this site and a hardcopy version is printed in the newsletter (but we prefer the online version). Applications are due November 30, 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. Deadline for nomination: November 30.

2020 Laureates

R. Lanier AndersonR. Lanier Anderson, J.E. Wallace Sterling Prof. in Humanities, Sr Assoc Dean of Humanities and Arts, Dept. of Philosophy at Stanford University

Despite being exceptionally busy as chair and now Dean, Professor Anderson often spends up to an hour after class answering clarifying questions or delving into a deeper discussion. Crucially, he never makes students feel bad for taking up his time or that he is eager to leave the conversation and go elsewhere. His attention to a student in the moment is absolute, the kind of affirming encouragement that tells us that we are a priority. … Professor Anderson’s commitment to student engagement helps students develop analytical abilities that they can then deploy, in his class, in service of questions of personal, intellectual import. … Not only is he a remarkable researcher, but it is also clear that he cares deeply about teaching. He is an animated teacher, bringing to life the stakes of an argument and hooking his students immediately.

Philosophy is notorious for joining math and physics as the disciplines perceived as “genius” fields, a distinction that brings with it shocking demographics with a dearth of women and people of color. … it’s important that faculty members [do as Professor Anderson does to] help build up a culture of encouragement, so that the work is not left to the few role models of underrepresented identities. Professor Anderson has been a crucial mentor and advocate for me, helping me to see myself as belonging in philosophy.

Barbara Barnes, UC Berkeley Gender and Women's StudiesBarbara Barnes, Dept. of Gender and Women’s Studies at U.C. Berkeley

Dr. Barnes is a legend among students, who often arrive early to discuss her previous lectures, sharing epiphanies with each other. Her syllabi contain a balanced mix of foundational texts and newly published works; thus, her students receive a grounded understanding of the history and context of each topic while also responding to recent scholarly discussions. Her readings demand an understanding of complex theories across multiple fields of inquiry. To ensure that each student fully comprehends these concepts, Dr. Barnes establishes a culture of inclusion within the classroom, and this sense of belonging increases trust and safety so that each student feels personally invited to participate….

Dr. Barnes’ lectures are engaging and inspiring. She sparks the imagination and encourages cutting edge ideas. She teaches people how to think critically about the world in which we live while creating a safe environment wherein students learn, explore, and innovate. She does this by perfectly balancing the material she teaches with student participation. Dr. Barnes embodies a level of skill and talent that is extremely rare.

Video prepared by Barbara Barnes

Stephen Hinshaw Department of Psychology at UC BerkeleyStephen Hinshaw, Dept. of Psychology at U.C. Berkeley

Stephen Hinshaw perfectly walks the line between someone distraught by the past and present societal practices around mental illness and someone who is wonderfully hopeful that society can change. He encouraged empathy and understanding supremely. He challenged students to critically think, constantly question, and never fall victim to groupthink. Professor Hinshaw could powerfully articulate the troubles in the mental health field while still leaving students with a sense of optimism and power to change. Never before have I had the privilege of experiencing such a thoughtful, driven, and accomplished teacher on a regular basis. My time in his class is one of the most cherished times in my life. He is incredibly deserving of this amazing honor.

Video prepared by Stephen Hinshaw

Scott Sagan,  Political Science, Stanford University.200Scott D. Sagan, Dept. of Political Science at Stanford University

… In almost every meeting, the central question Professor Sagan would raise was how our work would support the praxis of the policy world. … the quality of his work that I most admire is his capacity to use a thorough inspection of philosophy and history to guide pragmatic policy recommendations. Above all, Professor Sagan is a caring mentor. Though Professor Sagan’s expectations for his students are the highest, I am inspired by his open-mindedness and humility. He listens to my ideas, considers every edit or direction I suggest, critiques my work with honest and helpful comments, and encourages me to publish my own writing. The respect and kindness Professor Sagan shows to his students was evident at a Stanford event in DC this July. Several former research assistants and students showed up to hear his talk, and after the event, we all got together to reminisce over how much we appreciated his guidance and mentorship. Truly, this network of Sagan students is remarkable; grounded by his example, Professor Sagan’s students are eager mentors and have helped me find my own professional and personal directions.

Video prepared by Scott Sagan

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