The annual Andrea L. Rich Night to Honor Teaching award ceremony, which is sponsored by the UCLA Academic Senate Committee on Teaching and the Center for the Advancement of Teaching, honors faculty who have gone above and beyond in teaching their students.

The Distinguished Teaching Awards — UCLA’s highest honor for teaching — are usually presented during a special ceremony at the Chancellor’s Residence. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 ceremony could not be held. 

Winners are chosen based on a range of criteria:

  • Impact on students, specifically playing a key role in students’ success, offering advice and guidance on career plans, or serving as a significant influence in students’ lives
  • Efforts to create a learning environment in which diverse students can succeed
  • Using innovative teaching methods and/or curriculum
  • Involvement in community outreach activities
  • Teaching ratings

The awards were given out in three categories: distinguished senate faculty, distinguished lecturer and distinguished teaching assistant.

Distinguished Senate Faculty Award

E. Tendayi Achiume is a professor at UCLA School of Law. Her research focuses on global governance of racism and xenophobia, and the legal and ethical implications of colonialism for contemporary international migration. Achiume guides students through communicating in “a mature and respectful way” and prioritizes all her students’ perspectives, empowering students who may not speak up due to certain class dynamics. In October, she was named the inaugural holder of the Alicia Miñana Chair in Law.

Neveen El-Farra is a professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. She teaches students medical practice and guides them through the art of interacting with and caring for patients in a hospital setting. “I try to emphasize to students all the time that right now, the patient is your teacher, and it’s important that you do everything that you can to connect with your patients because they will teach you medicine that you will never forget,” said El-Farra, who serves as the associate program director in the UCLA Internal Medicine Residency Program.

MarySue Heilemann is a professor at the UCLA School of Nursing. She pioneered the use of transmedia in mental health interventions, a technique which uses storytelling over multiple digital platforms. Her work is currently focused on using transmedia to help Latinas struggling with anxiety and depression. “I authentically believe that learning is a lot of fun for human beings,” she said. “Every year, I go through the syllabus with the students at the end of the year and make changes and tweaks so that the next time I teach it, it’s improved.”

David Kim is a professor of Germanic languages at the UCLA College. His research interests include postcolonial and global studies, human rights, digital humanities and world literature. Kim believes passion is central to his profession: “I try to pass onto my students the same kind of excitement that one feels when one begins to see oneself and others in a different way, and how all of us are somehow enriched by that kind of a transaction.” His latest research involves graph analytics techniques, big data and network analyses in studies of world literature. 

Tamara Levitz is a professor of comparative literature at the UCLA College. Her work explores the roles of artistic intentions, gender, social implications and the interactions between artists, musicians, composers, critics, ethnographers, performers and audiences in historical music performances. Levitz, who is also a professor of musicology at the Herb Alpert School of Music, highlights that each student’s path is different and believes that teaching is all about the students “finding what they like, what they really care about.”

Matthew Lieberman is a professor of psychology at the UCLA College. His research uses functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine the neural bases of social cognition and experiences. His classroom is interactive and on the first day, he has students follow a set of instructions in real time that are meant to showcase social interactions and norms. This way, the students get to “experience many of the big themes of social psychology and they do it not by learning about what somebody found in a study but by looking at their own experience in this moment.”

Distinguished Lecturer Award

John Branstetter is a lecturer in the political science department at the UCLA College. His research interests include comparative political theory, continental political thought and East Asian political philosophy, with a focus on translation and movement of ideas between cultures. Branstetter’s teaching philosophy aims to elevate the individual strengths of his diverse cohort of students. “We all benefit from each others’ experiences when you give people the freedom to do what they’re going to do,” he said.

Margaret Davis is a lecturer for UCLA Writing Programs. Her writing interests include popular culture, technology and gender. She encourages students to explore topics they’re passionate about in class discussions and through different writing mediums. Steering the students away from a grade-focused mentality and empowering them to use their writing for advocacy and change helps them “pursue a full and rich and researched argument that they care deeply about and are excited about,” she said.

Cindy Kratzer is a lecturer in the department of education at the UCLA School of Education and Information Studies. Her research interests include reading comprehension instruction, lesson study and student achievement. Kratzer’s teaching philosophy is rooted in helping each individual student succeed despite possible limitations. “A lot of my students come in as first-generation college students who are now first-generation doctoral students,” Kratzer said. “They’re terrified ... and my job is to help them be successful.”

Distinguished teaching assistant awardees were:

Clare Beer — geography

Nina Bjekovic — Italian

Elizabeth Crawford — English

John Kardosh — philosophy

Laura Muñoz — Spanish and Portuguese

View the recipients’ interview clips on the UCLA Center for the Advancement of Teaching website.