The UC Davis Academic Senate and Academic Federation have recognized five faculty in the College of Letters and Science for their outstanding teaching, research and public service. For a full list of winners, visit UC Davis Dateline.
Distinguished Teaching Award: Undergraduate
Amber Boydstun, associate professor, Department of Political Science, College of Letters and Science — She is an innovative teacher and a dedicated mentor who has been an inspiration and role model to her students. Her courses in political science engage students in critical thinking and challenge them to grow intellectually. Many students wrote letters of support for her nomination, praising her excellence in the classroom and her generosity in giving time to her students outside the classroom. Students describe her teaching and her impact on their lives as phenomenal, wonderful, indispensable and transformative — usually followed by multiple exclamation points. Students further talked about her ability to form a personal connection with each student, even in large courses. Many students noted that when they needed support, even after their class ended, Boydstun was always willing to meet them for coffee to provide advice and mentorship.
Distinguished Teaching Award: Graduate and Professional
Lucy Corin, professor, Department of English, College of Letters and Science — As a teacher in the Creative Writing Program (she served as the program director, 2013-18), she has inspired many graduate students to become successful fiction writers. Her students comment that she spends hours and hours mentoring and challenging them. They see in her a rare combination of relentless creativity as a writer and an unparalleled generosity and dedication to their creative work. Her own acclaimed record of experimental prose has attracted many creative writing students to the English department. Her peers, moreover, commend her energy, passion and commitment to her students. Those who have studied under Professor Corin recognize her great enthusiasm in class, accessibility during office hours and devotion in supporting them.
Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award
Tessa Hill, professor, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, College of Letters and Science — Tireless in her efforts to raise awareness of the impacts of climate change, she has appeared before nine federal, regional and state hearings, meetings and commissions since 2015. The panels she has addressed include the Natural Resources Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, and she also has delivered scientific briefings to congressional staff, and California agencies and state legislators. She has collaborated with Northern California oyster farmers to increase oyster resiliency to ocean acidification, and in 2018 she helped the city of Winters, in Yolo County, develop a Climate Resilience Plan. She leads the Northern California chapter of 500 Women Scientists, which encourages public engagement among scientists.
Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award
Valentina Popescu, lecturer, Department of Classics, College of Letters and Science — As the primary instructor of the Ancient Greek sequence (Greek 1-3) and a contributor to other classics courses, she has created a rich learning environment that focuses on her students’ progress, challenges their critical thinking abilities and fosters their interests in classics. Her mastery of the fields of Greek, ancient literature and Latin, her ability to create functional and effective teaching tools, and her unwavering focus on student success make her well deserving of this award.
Distinguished Teaching Award: Undergraduate
Ross Thompson, professor, Department of Psychology, College of Letters and Science — He is recognized for his creativity, empathy and concern for students in his general psychology and social and personality development classes. He melds theory in developmental science with real-life situations by asking students to become “caseworkers” who must evaluate and produce written recommendations about difficult family situations. He encourages students to ask questions and discuss course material even in large classes, which he then personalizes by incorporating their responses into his lectures. His lectures on development are often timed to match his students’ own academic developmental stages, making his lectures that much more relevant and engaging to his students. His nominators describe his courses as well-organized, engaging, challenging and worth auditing repeatedly.