Top Teaching Scholars for 2017

Recognizing outstanding faculty contributions in teaching, research, and service.

Recognizing outstanding faculty contributions in teaching, research, and service 

One of the marvelous traditions of the beginning of the academic year is celebrating the achievements of the faculty who so profoundly shape the University. Santa Clara University celebrated their achievements with a faculty award ceremony on campus on September 12. The ceremony was hosted by President Michael Engh, S.J. and Provost Dennis C. Jacobs. Here are this year’s award winners. 

Award for Sustained Excellence in Scholarship

Pat Hoggard, Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

For his key role in establishing SCU’s reputation for undergraduate research in chemistry, Pat Hoggard earns the University’s highest award for scholarly achievement. He has contributed more than 113 publications in peer reviewed journals and given more than 40 talks at national conferences. He was recently awarded an American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund grant, which he will use to work with students. His enthusiasm (and occasional ukulele playing) in the classroom, has created an environment that allows students to fail—but only to learn how to succeed.


Award for Recent Achievement in Scholarship 

Gary Spitko headshot

E. Gary Spitko, Presidential Professor of Ethics and the Common Good and Professor of Law

Prolific and impactful in his scholarship, E. Gary Spitko has examined employment law and arbitration as well as the effect of law on social understandings and their evolution. He has published more than two dozen law review articles, books, and solicited book chapters. His work has been cited in some 370 law review articles, casebooks, and court opinions.

He is the author of Antigay Bias in Role-Model Occupations (University of Pennsylvania Press), which explores how employment discrimination has been used to reinforce negative social understandings about gay people. (Read more about that here.) A nationally recognized trusts and estates scholar, Spitko was recently elected an American Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, the preeminent U.S. organization for estate planning lawyers and academics.


The Brutocao Family Foundation Award for Curriculum Innovation 

Michael Kevane, Associate Professor in the Department of Economics
Bill Sundstrom, Professor in the Department of Economics

Michael Kevane and Bill Sundstrom have changed the way econometrics and data analysis is taught to economics majors. Kevane and Sundstrom launched a pilot program at SCU using R software for statistical computing, the leading-edge program found extensively in Silicon Valley businesses. Classes were revamped, syllabi changed, YouTube videos created, and a new lab class designed—in part to emphasize real world data, making graduates job-market ready. SCU now offers a follow-up upper division course studying even more advanced econometrics. The success of this program has been shared across campus—from business to social sciences and the humanities. Graduates have reported more interviews and job offers because of their familiarity with R software.


The Louis and Dorina Brutocao Award for Teaching Excellence 

Simone Billings, Professor in the Department of English

Simone Billings

From her first-year courses to senior seminars and beyond, Simone Billings has shaped writers and thinkers and citizens of which Santa Clara is justly proud. Her compassion and dedication has encouraged students to reach higher for more than 35 years.

Many alumni from across several generations attribute their success to her guidance. Her mantra for writing is “clear, concise direct prose, please.” Her teaching style is similarly direct and honest, as she draws out the best in her students. Billings is continually searching out new methods of teaching and new avenues where writing can be found. In the summer of 2016, she enrolled in a series of digital humanities workshops and began to explore podcasts as a new student assignment.


Francisco Jiménez Inclusive Excellence Award 

Sherry Wang, Assistant Professor in the Department of Counseling Psychology

The primary focus of Sherry Wang’s research, teaching, and service addresses the needs of under-represented communities of color. She has shown a commitment to issues of social justice and diversity. She has examined cultural factors in ethnic minority health disparities, such as the role of acculturation, stigma, and oppression in risky behaviors. Colleagues testify to the important influence of her work: strengthening the values of diversity and inclusion within her department and in the broader field and community.


Presidential Special Recognition Awards 

Ellen S. Kreitzberg, Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Social Justice and Public Service

For decades, Ellen S. Kreitzberg has worked tirelessly on behalf of the poor and marginalized. In addition to being an outstanding professor, Kreitzberg volunteered to direct SCU’s Center for Social Justice and Public Service when needed. She worked closely with the fundraising team in University Relations to secure a $500,000 gift which supports summer social justice programs and allows students to work pro bono.

Kreitzberg also spearheaded important discussions on campus covering topics such as Black Lives Matter, the 2016 election, and many other criminal justice and social justice issues. She has formed positive relationships with leaders of the Social Justice Coalition, the Student Bar Association, and other student groups. Her efforts also encouraged professors and law students to become more involved. She has been called a servant-leader whose heart is full of compassion, never seeking recognition but instead a more just world. 

Shannon Vallor, William J. Rewak Professor of Philosophy

Shannon Vallor illustration

It’s fair to say that Shannon Vallor teaches students to judge less, think more, and never stop asking questions. She is a former Brutocao Award recipient for her outstanding teaching, and she was given the 2015 World Technology Award in Ethics. Vallor has 42 presentations and 22 publications to her credit. Her current research focuses on the impact of emerging technologies on moral and intellectual habits and skills and virtues of human beings. Her most recent book is Technology and the Virtues: A Philosophical Guide to a Future Worth Wanting (Oxford University Press).

Vallor helped create a downloadable teaching module for software engineering ethics that has been requested by 32 universities on five continents. She has a deep passion for her subject and a clear interest in fostering a deeper student understanding. Outside of teaching, she was the Chair of her department and served in leadership roles with several outside organizations: president of the International Society for Philosophy and Technology, executive board member of the Foundation for Responsible Robotics, and executive editorial board member for the Philosophical Studies book series. (Read her essay on artificial intelligence and public trust in Santa Clara Magazine here.)

The Sustaining Excellence Project: 
Thomas Plante, Professor of Psychology; Robert M. Senkewicz, Professor of History; Katie Wilson, Professor of Electrical Engineering; Greg Corning, Associate Professor of Political Science; Gary Neustadter, Professor of Law; and Paul Soukup, S.J., Professor of Communication; Lisa Kloppenberg, Dean of the School of Law; Mike Nuttall, Associate Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education; Robin Reynolds, Associate Vice President, Auxiliary Services; Lester Deanes, Assistant Dean for Student Life; Trista San Agustin, Director, Enrollment Services Center; Staci Gustafson, Senior Associate Athletics Director; Jeff Mitchell, Senior Associate Athletics Director; Elspeth Rossetti, Senior Director, Career Center; and Rafael Ulate, Senior Assistant Dean, College of Arts and Sciences

In September 2016, President Engh invited members of the campus community to join in a year-long comprehensive project of reviewing and assessing current operations and recommending ways to improve efficiencies and effectiveness of University programs. Members of The Sustaining Excellence Project selflessly gave their time to advance the mission, goals, and quality of Santa Clara as a Jesuit university. The leadership was charged with keeping the community informed of the process and moving the project forward in a timely fashion. This group harnessed ideas, suggestions, research, and data to improve revenue generation and operational efficiencies. The Sustaining Excellence Project’s report provides informed opportunities to meet SCU’s long-term resource needs while also enabling the University to achieve its planned growth over the coming years.


Features, Top Stories

Chemistry professor and award winner Pat Hoggard, far right, works in a lab with students in 2004.