Santa Clara University


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.

2013 Award Winner

Jeff Zorn
zorn210Jeff has earned a remarkable reputation among students. They say: “The coursework provided was challenging but did not seem like work because of how rewarding and enlightening it was,” and “The obstacles and frustrations that his students face are always fresh on his mind . . . his classes are always the first to fill in the English department because the students know: he is a master teacher.” One faculty letter writer, voicing support for the students’ nomination, notes that our honoree is admired not just by students but by his peers as well, calling him a true “’teacher’s teacher.’ He teaches writing with a traditionalist’s emphases on organization, argument, eloquence, and mechanical perfection supplemented by the profession’s best advances in the areas of process pedagogy, creativity, and multicultural awareness.”

2012 Award Winner

Scott LaBarge
Philosophy and Classics

labarge210Scott 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

powers 210Student 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

Brian McNelis
mcnelis 210Student 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
DSC_0053 (2)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.

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