Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef surprised UC Davis professor Brenda Deen Schildgen with a $40,000 teaching prize during her lecture at Olson Hall on Tuesday.
The UC Davis Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarly Achievement has been awarded to one outstanding professor each year since 1987 and is believed to be the largest undergraduate teaching prize in the nation.
The winner is selected based upon the recommendations of faculty, students and research peers, said Meg Stallard, chair of the UC Davis Foundation Board of Trustees.
This prize is presented each year in the belief that excellence in undergraduate teaching, combined with distinguished scholarly achievements, is what distinguishes universities, she said.
This honor also reinforces UC Davis’ commitment to its students by recognizing that the quality of their education starts with the caliber and success of the faculty, Stallard said.
Schildgen has been teaching at UC Davis since 1988 and is a scholar of medieval European literature and biblical studies. She has worked with literature in English, Italian, French, Spanish, Greek and Latin and has taught courses in areas including Comparative Literature, Humanities, and English.
As Schildgen lectured her English 171A class called Bible as Literature, Vanderhoef entered the room with a crowd of photographers and a large cake to announce her as this year’s recipient of the award.
Though the prize was awarded on April Fool’s Day, Vanderhoef said it was not at all a joke.
Each year the prize is given to an extraordinary person, he said. [Schildgen] is among the best of the best. She loves teaching and students feel that – they feel that they are continuously learning.
On course evaluations at the end of the quarter, Schildgen twice received the highest possible rating – five out of five – from every student in her class. The two classes were upper division Comparative Literature courses.
One of the popular lower division courses that she teaches is Comparative Literature 6, Myths and Legends.
Myths and Legends was a large class, but she ran it as if each one of us was being taught personally by her, said Kris Ide, junior majoring in English.
Schildgen is very knowledgeable not only about the texts she’s specifically teaching, but also how it relates to other texts, time periods, people and cultures, Ide said.
She puts what you’re learning into a wider context, he said.
In addition to teaching, Schildgen has published 10 books in the last 11 years and has authored three dozen scholarly articles.
Among her many works is a book titled Power and Prejudice: Reception of the Gospel of Mark, for which she won a Best Academic Book Choice award in 1999.
Schildgen has also contributed toward building the campus’ University Writing Program and has been an advocate for the development of writing skills.
When Vanderhoef presented her with the teaching award, Schildgen said she felt flabbergasted, awed and mostly gratitude for the recognition.
The first thing that’s going through my head is that I don’t deserve this, Schildgen said. I believe it’s not a one person project, but a team of people all working together to educate.
With the money she has been recently awarded, Schildgen said she will not be spending it on a new car or a trip to Disneyland. Instead, she may be giving a portion of it to Comparative Literature traveling grants.
THUY TRAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org XXX