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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 guidelines, please see below:

1. Only students and alumni/alumnae may nominate a faculty member for the Brutocao Award for Teaching Excellence.

2. All nominations must be completed through the Teaching Excellence Nomination Form

3. The following criteria are required for eligibility:

  • 10 years or more at Santa Clara University (the year a faculty member joined the University is given in parentheses next to the faculty member's name in the back of the Undergraduate Bulletin)
  • substantial teaching at the undergraduate level
  • has not previously won this award (previous winners listed below and right)

5. Once nominated, a faculty member stays in the pool of candidates under active consideration for three years.

6. The deadline for nominations for the 2022 Awards is Monday, April 18, 2022.

  • Candidate's teaching promotes intellectual curiosity and active learning.
  • Candidate models and fosters intellectual rigor and honesty and a zest for learning.
  • Candidate develops connections between the course material and life outside the classroom.
  • Candidate is available to students, attentive to their needs, and enjoys the teacher-student relationship.
  • The candidate supports Santa Clara University's values, goals and tradition.
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    2022 Winner
    Korin Wheeler, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

    known for her high standards and dedication to student growth. She supports students in their journey through Chemistry, conveying exceptional care for each individual student through her guidance. She shows equal dedication to the underprepared and high-achieving students making lasting impacts on all learners. 

    Students who nominated Dr. Wheeler wrote of her inspirational and empathetic approach to teaching, describing how she not only teaches in the classroom, but mentors students in their labs. 

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    2022 Winner
    Sarita Tamayo-Moraga, Department of Religious Studies

    Dr. Sarita Tamayo-Moraga of the Religious Studies Department invites her students to learn what it means to consider the perspectives of others in her classes, a virtue that couldn’t be more important than it is now in the climate of ideological polarization. Many describe her teaching as life-changing. Her care for students truly embodies the Jesuit value of cura personalis - her care for the whole person acknowledges the uniqueness of each individual and the complexity of their identities. 

    Both colleagues and students have noted Sarita’s compassion for the SCU community and her love of teaching. She is respected as a leader on campus for her devotion to inclusion and diversity and civic engagement, making her an example for all of us to follow.


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    2021 Winner
    Michelle Bezanson, Department of Anthropology

    This honoree has been consistently praised for her holistic teaching approach. Students and colleagues have described her dedication to mentoring students both in the classroom and in field research, developing pedagogical innovations as a teaching-scholar, and nurturing students’ growth and development.

    Students are as passionate about this honoree’s self as they are about her teaching methods.  A colleague noted that the students’ love for this teacher results from her excitement for and excellence in primatology, anthropology, and art, and her commitment to fostering a safe and dynamic place to learn and grow--intellectually and personally.

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    2021 Winner
    Dan Ostrov, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science

    This honoree for the Brutocao Award for Teaching Excellence has been called a “pedagogical pied piper” by his colleagues. His course design, planning, teaching, and outreach to students  were described as a tour de force. An alum noted that this honoree “sees the unique potential in each of his students” and encourages them to strive for excellence.” His mentoring of students has extended far beyond the classroom as he has supported current and former students in their work, their graduate studies, and their lifelong passion for mathematics.

    Colleagues and students have noted their ability to learn from this honoree, not only about math, but about teaching, innovation, and mentoring -- all while enjoying his great sense of humor.

  • Tonya Nilsson
    2020 Winner
    Tonya Nilsson, Civil, Environmental and Sustainable Engineering

    In scores of nomination letters for Dr. Nilsson, current students and alumni describe unforgettable learning experiences, describing her in memorable terms: “Mentor,” “gold star standard” “challenging,” “inventive” “queen of real-world applications,” “embodiment of the three C’s” and “an engineer for the whole person.” They described classes where “everyone was valued, and everyone was challenged.” They recalled her advising and the ways she challenged them in class, at conferences, in senior design, and in service-learning experiences in Rwanda. They described how she reached out--in particular--to support students of color, first-generation college students, and women in engineering. Some said she challenged and supported them in ways they never experienced before. Others said her passion and commitment to engineering changed their lives. And still, others said all of that and more (and apologized for the length of their letters!). Account after account of extraordinary teaching exemplified the work the Brutocao Award honors. One department colleague summed up: “Tonya is the most talented, dedicated, and generous instructor I have ever known. We are fortunate at SCU to have her as part of our community of teaching scholars.” Indeed.

Previous Honorees

2019 - Diane Dreher (English)
2018 - Brian Buckley (Philosophy)
2018 - Lisa Whitfield (Psychology)
2017 - Simone Billings (English)
2016 - Silvia Figueira (Computer Engineering) 
2015 - Shannon Vallor (Philosophy)
2014 - Patti Simone (Psychology)
2013 - Jeff Zorn (English)
2012 - Scott LaBarge (Philosophy and Classics)
2011 - Chuck Powers (Sociology)
2010 - Brian McNelis (Chemistry)
2009 - William J. Prior (Philosophy)
2008 - David Pinault (Religious Studies)
2007 - Eileen Elrod (English)
2006 - Phil Kesten (Physics)
2005 - Marilyn Fernandez (Anthropology and Sociology)
2004 - John Heath (Classics)
2003 - Linda Brunauer (Chemistry)
2002 - Rose Marie Beebe (Modern Language and Literature)
2001 - Bill Greenwalt (Classics)
2000 - Mario Belotti (Economics)
1999 - M. Ann Brady (English)
1998 - Robert Senkewicz, S.J. (History)
1997 - Fred D. White (English)
1996 - Steven C. Chiesa (Civil Engineering)
1995 - Robert J. Pfeiffer (Chemistry)
1994 - Frederick J. Parrella (Religious Studies)
1993 - George F. Giacomini, Jr. (History)
1992 - Eric O. Hanson (Political Science)
1991 - Eugene J. Fisher (Mechanical Engineering)
1990 - Carolyn A. Mitchell (English)
1989 - Timothy O'Keefe (History)
1988 - Gerald E. Markle (Applied Mathematics)
1987 - Theodore J. Mackin, S. J. (Religious Studies)