Louis and Dorina Brutocao Award for Teaching Excellence
The Louis and Dorina Brutocao Award for Teaching Excellence recognizes outstanding faculty who promote intellectual curiosity and active learning; model and foster intellectual rigor and honesty and a zest for learning; develop connections between course material and life outside the classroom; are available to students, attentive to their needs, and enjoy the teacher-student relationship. This award honors those teachers who, over a period of years, have made a real difference: those who have served as exemplars in the Santa Clara, Jesuit tradition of service, who have challenged their students in ways that have forced them to look at the world afresh, who have exerted a major influence over the intellectual and moral development of their students, who have, in short, made an imprint that is still felt in some way years after graduation.
For nomination information, click here.
2012 Award Winner
Philosophy and Classics
Scott LaBarge promotes active learning through a classroom environment in which tangential questions are not discarded, but redirected, and abstract questions are made more concrete. He “involves every student in a learning process that must be witnessed to be believed,” leading the student writer to conclude with “I hope to emulate him ...” Departmental colleagues commend his gift of leading discussion, and his careful, thorough preparation and skillful engagement of students, even on unplanned topics. Scott's commitment to student learning is evidenced by his leadership of Café Socrates, the Philosophy department’s weekly discussion group, as well as his service as faculty director of ALPHA RLC. A student wrote of him, “[Now] I can disagree with my father in a more concise and eloquent manner thanks to the questions this professor has forced me to answer and the critiques he provided to my papers.”
2011 Award Winner
Charles "Chuck" Powers
Student and alumni nomination letters describe the lasting impact of Chuck's teaching and mentoring, describing influence that consists of equal parts compassionate nurture and uncomfortable challenge, with the result, as one student said, that “he inspires his students to question the world around them instead of being passive bystanders.” He compels students to take intellectual risks and to reconsider their assumptions about themselves and the world they inhabit.
A colleague notes, “I cannot think of any other faculty member whose entire professional efforts are so singularly focused. I have never observed a hint of concern on his part for personal career advancement or other self-oriented goals. The advancement of student knowledge, maturity, career discernment and personal character are at the heart of everything he does.” Students described his influence on their sense of themselves, their sense of the world, and, in particular, their sense of the future: “The knowledge that he imparted will impact the rest of my life.” “[He is] totally invested in the future of his students.” “He taught me that I could have a career based on service to others.” “[He] knew my work and encouraged me to push my thinking and improve my formation of research questions. His commitment to social justice and students extended beyond his classroom. Three years after graduation I still remember the content of his courses. But what I really took away was his belief that I should put the privilege of a Santa Clara diploma to work to improve the world.”
2010 Award Winner
Student nomination letters cite his passion and recall his genuine care for them as learners. Given his subject matter and large classes, his numerical evaluations-- consistently in the high 4’s--are astounding, according to his department chair. One former student, reflecting back on his experience in our colleague’s Introduction to Organic Chemistry course, provides a personal take on that assessment: “I now look back at the change, from being completely lost to flourishing, as one of the most profound transformations I have ever undergone.” Our award winner also has a remarkable record in curriculum development, capping his accomplishments a few years ago by conceiving a new major in biochemistry and then carefully taking it through the requisite administrative processes for approval. The new major, which significantly expands students’ options at Santa Clara and beyond, has clearly addressed an important need in our undergraduate curriculum, as it gained 90 majors over a three-year period.
2009 Award Winner
William J Prior
In letters from the students supporting his nomination, several aspects of his transformative teaching stand out. The first is the climate of openness and questioning that he establishes in the classroom. Students are encouraged to express and defend their own ideas, and to challenge and engage the professor, in an open atmosphere reinforced by the professor’s amiability, humor, and humility. Second, he is able to connect the abstract philosophical ideas he teaches to aspects of daily life. Accidentally dropping an apple, for instance, becomes the occasion for reflections on matter and how it can change forms. And third, many students mention the quality of their relationship with this professor outside the classroom—his active concern and friendship, and his effectiveness as an advisor and mentor who helps students “live the examined life.” This recipient has influenced Santa Clara’s most exemplary students. Letters of support came from this past year’s Valedictorian and the recipients of both the St. Clare Medal and the Kolvenbach Award.
2008 Award Winner
His department chair notes that his student teaching evaluations are “consistently off the charts.” Just as important, he models for his students “intellectual discourses at their finest and most admirable levels.” As a scholar of Islamic Studies, David Pinault’s teaching bridges the worlds of Islam and Christianity. Although himself a Catholic, he is sought out by Muslim students at Santa Clara for his deep respect for and knowledge of Islamic culture and religions. As one student noted, “[He] has made an impact on me as a student and member of the global community that will stay with me.”
2007 Award Winner
Eileen Elrod is a teacher who has clearly touched a great many students’ lives both in the classroom and well beyond it. Past and present students repeatedly attest to her ability to foster trust and openness in classroom discussions, creating an atmosphere, as one alum put it, “in which it is safe and comfortable for students to take risks, ask questions, voice opinions, and thus work to their highest capacity.” Through her own rich knowledge of her subject and her ability to inspire, she has successfully challenged students to deepen their understanding and appreciation of demanding works of literature. As a teacher of writing, she helps students improve both content and style with detailed feedback and legendary patience. She has also taken a leadership role in developing the academic content of the University’s Bridge/LEAD program, which supports first-generation college students and students of color in their transition to college life. In doing so she has played no small part in enhancing Santa Clara’s commitment to inclusive excellence. She has also been a leading innovator in her department’s curriculum, developing a number of new upper-division courses for majors.
Remarking upon the lasting impact of this professor, one student wrote, “I feel as though all I really need to say is that I’m currently working my way through Moby Dick a second time by choice- any teacher who can inspire that deserves an award.” If this leaves our honoree feeling a little ambivalent, perhaps a quote from another letter will suffice: “Long after I cease being a student, I will continue to see her as my teacher.”