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2011 Cuthbertson, Dinkelspiel, Gores awards honor faculty, students and staff

Nine members of the Stanford University community will be recognized at Commencement with Cuthbertson, Dinkelspiel and Gores awards. The awards honor individuals for exceptional contributions to Stanford, for distinctive contributions to undergraduate education and for excellence in teaching. Two professors, three staff members, two undergraduate students and two teaching assistants will receive the awards on Sunday, June 12, at the Commencement ceremony.

Cuthbertson Award

Valerie Kiszka, student services manager in the Department of Biology, will receive the Kenneth M. Cuthbertson Award for Exceptional Contributions to Stanford University.

The award, which was established by members of the faculty in 1981, was named after one of the early architects of Stanford's long-term financial planning and fundraising program.

Kiszka was honored "for her innovations and leadership in creating resources for students, from launching a seminar series titled PCR – PhD Career Routes – for doctoral students struggling with career decisions, to spearheading a proposal to secure SCORE (Strengthening the Core) Innovation Funds for graduate student research."

The award cited Kiszka "for her resourcefulness in finding ways to improve student services for both the Department of Biology and the university" and "for being the 'go-to resource' for both faculty and students for all things having to do with the Department of Biology."

The award also commended Kiszka "for serving, day in and day out, as a much-valued personal advocate, ally and academic support system to hundreds of graduate and undergraduate students in biology."

Dinkelspiel Award

The Lloyd W. Dinkelspiel Awards for Distinctive Contributions to Undergraduate Education, named after the president of the Board of Trustees who served from 1953 to 1958, recognize distinctive contributions to undergraduate education or to the quality of student life. The 2011 winners are:

Jan Marie Barker-Alexander, associate dean of students, director of the Black Community Services Center and resident fellow of Ujamaa House, an African Diaspora theme undergraduate residence hall, was honored "for building a program at the Black Community Services Center that is recognized nationally for its support of the scholarship, culture, history and public service of black students on campus."

The award cited Barker-Alexander "for her commitment and work in support of the campaign that led to the construction of new facilities for the center – affectionately known as the Black House – and her singular efforts in making it a welcoming place for all students."

Barker-Alexander also was commended "for championing and supporting legions of Stanford students in her various roles – as associate dean of students, as director of the Black Community Services Center, as a freshman adviser and as a resident fellow."

Finally, Barker-Alexander was honored "for what one faculty member called 'the magic' she has worked at Stanford, pushing herself and others – students, faculty and alumni – to engage fully in the life of the university."

Suzanne Abel, associate director for external relations for the Haas Center for Public Service, was cited "for her tireless efforts to find support for the Haas Center's fellowship programs, thereby providing opportunities for hundreds of Stanford students to participate in public service."

The citation commended Abel "for 16 years of service as staff adviser to the Stanford in Government student program, providing critical advice about connecting with faculty, donors and community partners."

Abel was also lauded "for serving first as freshman adviser, then as mentor and friend to countless Stanford undergraduates."

Finally, she was cited "for exemplifying the vision expressed by Jane Stanford more than a century ago when she said,  'it was the paramount purpose of the Founders … to promote the public welfare.'"

Aysha Nicholson Bagchi, a senior in history and philosophy, with honors in Ethics in Society, was honored "for encouraging both students and faculty to be more reflective about their education and their lives."

She was commended "for her service, collegiality and eloquence as a student representative on the Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford."

Bagchi also was honored "for her many contributions to various dimensions of Stanford's academic life, from coordinating 'Ethics at Noon' discussions about moral questions, to promoting academic dialogue through her columns in The Stanford Daily."

Finally, the award cited "her quiet and effective advocacy for a holistic undergraduate experience that will benefit future generations of Stanford students."

Charles Augustine Syms IV, an undergraduate student in East Asian Studies and Feminist Studies and a co-terminal master's student in sociology, was honored "for his work as a scholar, campus leader and public servant striving to improve life for the LGBT community at Stanford and beyond."

Syms was commended "for his leadership in the effort to establish a Queer Studies minor within the Feminist Studies program."

He also was lauded "for initiating and coordinating the first-ever undergraduate queer studies conference, 'Queer Horizons,' which brought students and scholars from the United States, Canada and Japan to Stanford."

Finally, Syms was honored "for the wide-ranging impact he has had during his time at Stanford, prompting one faculty member to describe him as 'a once-in-a-lifetime type scholar, one who breaks boundaries and pushes fields forward.'"

Gores Award

The Walter G. Gores Awards are the university's highest teaching honor. They are named for Professor Walter J. Gores, a member of the Stanford Class of 1917 who became a professor of design at the University of Michigan.

Following are the 2010 winners:

Robert Siegel, associate professor (teaching) in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Program in Human Biology and Center for African Studies, was honored "for his dedication to developing new teaching materials and approaches, ranging from teaching one of the country's first courses on HIV to promoting alternative spring break, to helping students better understand the tragic impact of HIV and other viruses, to overseeing the integration of medical microbiology courses into a new Medical School curriculum."

The citation commended Siegel "for his ability to engage students in the intellectual process with lectures that have been described as 'intense, thrilling, awe-inspiring, scintillating,' but never boring."

Siegel also was honored "for his uncommon creativity in teaching difficult material, including performing original poems about viruses and dressing up as a cow for a discussion of mad cow disease."

Finally, Siegel was cited "for his encouragement and enthusiasm that inspires all students, from freshmen to postdocs, to be – as one explained – 'a better person, a better student, a better researcher, a better social activist and a better citizen.'"

Pavle Levi, assistant professor of film and media studies in the Department of Art and Art History, was honored "for his remarkable gifts as a teacher, providing students with a deep, humanistic understanding of film and expression."

Levi was commended "for his encyclopedic knowledge of material in seminars that students have described as an 'intellectual laboratory,' generating discussions that extend well beyond class."

The citation also honored him "for providing a professional role model and inspiring future generations of filmmakers, combining intellectual rigor with support for their own development."

Finally, Levi was commended "for challenging students to see their world more broadly and empowering them to have confidence in their work."

Rajat Bhatnagar, a doctoral candidate in electrical engineering who is a teaching assistant, was honored "for the exemplary care and initiative he has displayed in various academic roles – as teaching assistant, undergraduate student adviser and graduate student adviser in electrical engineering."

Bhatnagar was commended "for his excellent teaching skills, developing different strategies and methods of teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels."

The citation also honored him "for his broad support of graduate student teaching as department liaison, consultant and Mentors in Teaching Fellow at the Center for Teaching and Learning, investing countless hours and providing such valuable support to other students that he was proclaimed a 'mentor among mentors.'"

Finally, Bhatnagar was cited "for his unbridled enthusiasm that makes engineering fun for students, prompting one to declare, 'I hope he becomes a professor someday!'"

Daniel Tsubasa Blocksom, a student at Stanford Law School who is a teaching assistant, was honored "for his deep commitment to teaching and to his students that extends beyond the classroom."

He was commended "for creating an environment that establishes a positive attitude for learning, encourages every student to contribute, and supports and challenges them to take risks."

Blocksom also was honored "for going above and beyond his role as teaching assistant – opening additional sections, outlining common mistakes students make and suggesting how to avoid them, and offering advice on how to think about career paths."

Finally, he was honored "for his caring, responsiveness and engagement as a teacher that make him a favorite among students and faculty."