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University of California Santa Barbara
Academic Senate Awards

Prior Year Recipients

2017-18 Distinguished Teaching Award

Sherene Seikaly - History

Sherene Seikaly is an associate professor in the History Department, where her research focuses on capitalism, consumption, and development in the modern Middle East. Students commend her unique and innovative teaching style that allows space for open discussion. Instead of simply lecturing, Professor Seikaly challenges students to think critically and with nuance about historical evidence and historical narratives through techniques ranging from having students create interactive lessons for the class based on the readings to dividing even large lectures into groups to discuss questions about the readings and “rac[ing] up and down the aisles with a microphone so students could voice opinions.” Students commented that her “tireless efforts to include diverse voices empowered students to create a powerful learning experience where students also educate each other.” What is particularly striking is how Professor Seikaly manages to create a “safe space for collective learning” in large courses dealing with controversial, politically and emotionally charged subjects, such as courses about Israel/Palestine. Students also commend her “unwavering dedication to her students,” from editing and commenting upon weekly student work without a TA to her extensive and in-demand office hours to learning the names of each and every student, personally greeting them during the first class meeting. She has mentored both undergraduate and graduate students outside of the classroom, providing advice and support through personal crises and guiding their progression through their academic studies. As a testament to her success as a mentor, Professor Seikaly serves on an impressive number of Ph.D. and master’s committees for a scholar only two years tenured. Moreover, Professor Seikaly has demonstrated excellence in teaching a wide range of classes at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, from the small to the large. She successfully integrates research and teaching in all of these classes, such as through her willingness to share her research ideas with her classes and to listen to her students’ feedback on her own work. In conclusion, to summarize what makes Professor Seikaly such an exemplary professor, in her students’ words: she “nurtures both mind and heart.” As such, Professor Seikaly excels in all of the areas considered for the Distinguished Teaching Award, despite still being at a relatively early stage of her career. The Committee on Distinguished Teaching is thrilled to be able to recognize Sherene Seikaly’s inspiring dedication to her students and her excellence in the classroom.