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Faculty Excellence Awards
Honors UC San Diego Scholars

36th annual event highlights important contributions
of the university’s most exemplary faculty members

March 31, 2010

By Laura Margoni

For University of California, San Diego theatre and dance Professor Naomi Iizuka the play’s the thing that garnered her the inaugural Chancellor’s Associates Faculty Excellence Award for Excellence in Visual and Performing Arts. Iizuka, who is a renowned playwright and UC San Diego alumna, is the first person to receive the award in this category, which was created to recognize the outstanding level of work by faculty in this area.

“This new award highlights the remarkable talents, achievements and creativity of the members of UC San Diego’s music, theatre and dance, literature and visual arts departments,” said Wayne Dernetz, 2010 Faculty Excellence Awards Selection Committee chair. “Their contributions help us appreciate the beauty, meaning and joy of life. Along with the humanities and sciences, the arts define the human condition.”

The new award, along with five other prestigious awards for excellence in teaching, research and community service, will be presented April 1 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Atkinson Hall, located at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) on the UC San Diego campus. The annual celebration, now in its 36th year, honors faculty as a whole while highlighting the important contributions of the university’s most exemplary teachers and researchers via brief video presentations. Chancellor’s Associates, a program for donors who give an annual leadership gift of $1,500 or more to the university, will recognize the outstanding accomplishments of university faculty members with a citation and $2,500 award. 

The recipients of the 2010 Chancellor’s Associates Faculty Excellence Awards include: Samuel Rickless, Ph.D., professor of philosophy, for excellence in undergraduate teaching; Lisa Lowe, Ph.D., professor of comparative literature, for excellence in graduate teaching; Keith Rayner, Ph.D., professor of psychology, for excellence in research in humanities and social sciences; Steve Kay, Ph.D., dean of the Division of Biological Sciences, for excellence in research in science and engineering; Barbara Brody, M.P.H., director of the division of community ophthalmology for excellence in community service; and Naomi Iizuka, M.F.A., professor of theatre and dance, for excellence in performing and visual arts.

“This year’s honorees exemplify our tradition of excellence and innovation,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Marye Anne Fox. “They are exceptional teachers, researchers, community leaders and campus citizens. I applaud their achievements and dedication to the university, and I congratulate them on this much-deserved recognition.”

Award candidates are nominated by their academic peers, with final selection by a committee comprising Chancellor’s Associates donors.  Criteria for selection are based on faculty member achievements, reputation and impact on students and the academic community.  Since 1974, UC San Diego has recognized more than 100 extraordinary faculty members with Chancellor’s Associates Faculty Excellence Awards.

About the 2010 Chancellor’s Associates Faculty Excellence Awards recipients:

  • Samuel Rickless, Professor of Philosophy

Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching

Rickless is being recognized for his remarkable teaching in the department of philosophy. He demonstrates a superior command of the material and teaches with passion, humor, patience and accessibility. These qualities have earned him consistently high ratings by students, and in 2008 he was awarded the Outstanding Faculty Award at Thurgood Marshall College’s commencement. Rickless has a talent for engaging students of all academic backgrounds—a rare and valuable quality when teaching general education courses. In addition, he has served in various leadership positions within the philosophy department and is an esteemed mentor to several graduate students.

“The quality of Professor Rickless’ teaching is simply exceptional,” said David Brink, chair of the department of philosophy. “Not only is he a master of the material he teaches, but he is passionate about the material, too. He is very patient with and accessible to students, who appreciate his concern as well as his wry sense of humor.”

  • Lisa Lowe, Professor of Comparative Literature

Excellence in Graduate Teaching

Lisa Lowe will be honored for her exceptional teaching of graduate students in the department of literature. Since joining the UCSD faculty in 1986, Lowe's teaching and research has innovated literary studies with an attention to the cultures of colonial encounter and transatlantic and transpacific histories of migration.A dedicated mentor, her doctoral students have gone on to publish important books in American, Asian, French and British literary studies, and to become respected faculty members at top universities across the country.An award winning author herself, Lowe has published books on orientalism, immigration and culture within globalization.Her numerous honors include fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the American Council on Learned Societies and the UC Humanities Research Institute.

“Professor Lowe has focused her scholarship and teaching on literature and culture in a global perspective with particular attention to the voices of those who have been excluded,” said Oumelbanine Zhiri, chair of the department of literature. “Through her teaching, she has demonstrated to generations of students how it is possible to rethink the understanding of literature and culture today in a way that is attentive to world history.” 

  • Keith Rayner, Professor of Psychology

Excellence in Research in Humanities and Social Sciences

Rayner will be honored for his outstanding research in cognitive science. He is known for his leading research on the cognitive and perceptual processes that underlie reading, and is renowned for pioneering the use of eye-tracking methodology. Beyond his own field, Rayner’s extensive body of publications has impacted the fields of technology and education; Microsoft has shown a keen interest in his work for its implications for reading on a computer screen.

A nationally esteemed scholar of psychology, Rayner is the editor of Psychological Review, the field’s most prestigious journal, and a fellow of the American Psychological Association and the American Psychological Society.   

“Over the course of a long and productive career, Professor Rayner has secured a reputation as a leader in the study of the cognitive and perceptual processes of reading,” said Jeff Elman, dean of the Division of Social Sciences. “He is a tremendous asset to the campus community and his reputation enhances our own.”

  • Steve Kay, Dean of the Division of Biological Sciences

Excellence in Research in Science and Engineering

Kay is being honored for his extraordinary research contributions to the new fields of genomics and systems biology. A world-recognized leader in circadian biology, Kay was the first to identify plant clock genes and establish their regulatory loops. He has published numerous, high profile articles in the leading scientific journals, signifying major discoveries in the understanding of the biological clock. His research is predicted to have a profound impact on human health as well as agricultural productivity. Last year, Kay was elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors for a scientist in the U.S.

“Professor Kay’s work in the field of circadian rhythms has been seminal, and he is known as a scholar of the highest distinction,” said Richard Firtel, associate dean of the Division of Biological Sciences. “He is at the very top of his field and embodies the spirit of this award. I cannot imagine anyone more deserving at this time.”


  • Barbara Brody, Director of the Division of Community Ophthalmology

Excellence in Community Service

Brody is being recognized for her exemplary service to the campus and the San Diego community.  With dedication and passion she has integrated public health and community service with education and cutting-edge research in the psychosocial aspects of eye disease.  The Save our Children’s Sight/Eye Mobile program she developed has served over 80,000 low-income children with vision care.  In addition, she has initiated several programs that have significantly improved the quality of life of elderly people suffering from macular degeneration.   As a professor, Brody has included many UCSD student interns in the various aspects of her research and community programs, and has mentored numerous undergraduates, medical students, postdoctoral fellows and international scholars.  Inspired by her dedication to helping the underserved, many of her students go on to obtain joint MD/MPH degrees and continue to serve the community.

“Professor Brody's integration of public health and ophthalmology has resulted in improvement of the lives in thousands of people with macular degeneration as well as optimizing school readiness in tens of thousands of young children in our community,” said Stuart I. Brown, chair of the department of ophthalmology.

  • Naomi Iizuka, Professor of Theatre and Dance
Excellence in Performing and Visual Arts

Iizuka is honored for her widely celebrated contributions to American theatre. She is considered to be a leading voice in shaping the field of new playwriting. Her prominence stems from the ability of her plays to circulate widely within ethnic, experimental and mainstream theatres. Merging contemporary and classical traditions, her plays are complex, intelligent and innovative, and capture a multicultural worldview. As a professor, she is praised by students for her dedication, attention and understanding of the craft. Iizuka is a member of the New Dramatists and the recipient of numerous awards, the most recently being the PEN/Laura Pels Foundation Award for Drama.

“Consistently grappling with large ideas while giving voice to the voiceless, Professor Iizuka’s works are considered to be a leading part of the American Theatre contemporary canon,” said Allyson Green, chair of the department of theatre and dance. “Her importance as a playwright extends far beyond her standing as one of the most produced and acclaimed playwrights in the United States.”

About UC San Diego Chancellor’s Associates

The UC San Diego Chancellor’s Associates program provides an opportunity for the university to connect with friends and supporters within the community. Through the years, the group has grown to include nearly 500 alumni, parents, faculty, staff and friends from across the country. Chancellor’s Associates donors are recognized for their generosity in providing annual leadership gifts of $1,500 or more to be used at the Chancellor’s discretion. For more information on Chancellor’s Associates, please visit www.chancellorsassociates.ucsd.edu


Media Contact:Laura Margoni, (858) 822-2485, lmargoni@ucsd.edu

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