UC Riverside Academic Senate

Distinguished Teaching Award

2016-17 Distinguished Teaching Award

Professor Gregory Beran joined the Chemistry Department in 2007 and has been instrumental in incorporating computational chemistry into teaching in the department. He is widely known for making some of the hardest chemistry classes accessible to students, and students consistently praise him for being “one of the best professors in one of the hardest classes” they have ever had.

Professor Beran recognizes that there is a wide diversity of learners, and that no single technique reaches every student. He has therefore developed a teaching approach that incorporates many different styles and pedagogical tools, including traditional lecturing, making use of the “flipped classroom”, extensive supplemental handouts, online videos, interactive Mathematica worksheets, and the integration of computational chemistry in his classes with a system that allows students to use research-grade computational chemistry tools through their web browsers.

Professor Beran teaches undergraduate service courses, upper-division, and graduate courses. His curriculum innovations include a complete overhaul of the quantum chemistry class, CHEM 113, and developing from scratch a popular graduate computational chemistry class, CHEM 206A, which many graduate students consider the most useful graduate course they took at UCR. Dr. Beran is also active in committees that seek to use technology to improve the pedagogy on campus, and he serves as graduate advisor in his department. He was named the 2010-2011 Professor of the Year from the UCR University Honors Program. He is active in numerous broader education and outreach activities, both locally, and nationally.

It is clear from the many student letters and his consistently high teaching evaluations that Dr. Beran’s “blended learning” approach to teaching has been widely successful, and that his passion for communicating his knowledge has “created the stimulating environment that [students] hoped college would be.” He is also “viewed as a leader in [the Chemistry] department among the faculty in terms of how to model excellence in teaching at all levels.” Dr. Beran is richly deserving of the Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award.

Professor William Walton joined the Entomology Department in 1995, where he has served as Vice Chair since 2009. A common theme in his course evaluations and student letters is Dr. Walton’s “tremendous commitment to student learning, achievement, and mentorship.” Students are inspired and encouraged toward personal success thanks to “his patient guidance, personal kindness, and respect he directs to those he teaches and mentors.”

Dr. Walton has taught at all levels of instruction, ranging from large introductory biology classes to specialized graduate entomology seminars. The committee found it remarkable that, after having almost two decades’ worth of an excellent teaching record and student evaluations, Dr. Walton chose to attend an HHMI-National Academies Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education to learn new teaching pedagogy. In this Institute, Dr. Walton learned the precepts of student-centered teaching and learning reform, which he immediately implemented in his classes, both in the large and small classrooms. As summarized in one of the nomination letters, Professor Walton “recognized that instruction can always be delivered in new, better, and innovative ways, and to his credit he made a major investment to do just that. His considerable efforts have elevated a heretofore robust and durable teaching record into a distinguished one.”

One example of Dr. Walton’s student-centered innovations is his introduction of web-based research exercises within large BIOL 5C lectures, to allow students to conduct their own population growth simulations and investigate other intriguing topics. Another example is how he engages ENTM 114 students in active learning by taking them on several weekend field trips to aquatic habitats in southern California and has them generate their own bio-assessment reports. Dr. Walton is careful to conduct pre- and post- assessment evaluations of student knowledge, which demonstrate that these innovations have resulted in students having a much deeper understanding of the subject.

Dr. Walton has responsibility for administering the Entomology Department teaching program, and he is also heavily involved in outreach activities for educators and the general public. For a long career of consistent distinguished teaching, Dr. Walton is fully deserving of the Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award.

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