Four instructors, nominated by their peers, have been selected as the inaugural recipients of Stanford’s new Lecturer’s Award for Teaching and Undergraduate Education.

The award winners for 2023-24 are Cathy Haas, Aleta Hayes, Jamie Imam, and Elizabeth Kessler. 

Administered by Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education (VPUE), the annual honor seeks to lift up distinguished teaching, curricular innovation, outstanding mentoring and advising, and overall contributions to undergraduate education and the university’s academic mission. This award is intended for lecturers who work with undergraduates or who have been appointed within the undergraduate schools. 

“I am enormously pleased to celebrate the winners of the inaugural Lecturer Award for Teaching and Undergraduate Education,” said R. Lanier Anderson, interim vice provost for undergraduate education. “This major university-level prize recognizes the creative and powerful work that lecturers do with and for our students every day. And the first group of winners represent both the range of contributions lecturers make, and their indispensable role in the undergraduate education we deliver – from creating community and excitement in individual classrooms to reshaping the curricula of entire departments and programs in more effective ways.” 

A newly created Lecturer Award Committee, established earlier this year by Anderson, designed the selection process, solicited nominations, and chose the first cohort of award recipients.

“Each one of these awardees has taught me something important about what it is to be an educator, and I am deeply grateful for the commitment, purpose, and insight they have brought to our students and our mission over many years,” Anderson added.

Cathy Haas headshot

Cathy Haas | Herschell Taghap

Cathy Haas, Stanford Language Center

Cathy Haas is an advanced lecturer in the Language Center within the School of Humanities and Sciences. She has taught American Sign Language, linguistics of ASL, and Deaf studies at Stanford for 44 years. She began her Stanford career in the Psychology Department where she worked on a research project focused on communicating through sign language with Koko, a gorilla – a project that developed into a nearly five-decades-long interspecies communication study offering insight into the intellectual, emotional, and empathetic capacities of gorillas. 

“I love teaching and I love helping people learn sign language so they can communicate better with Deaf and hard-of-hearing people,” Haas said. “Many of my students have also gone on to become professional interpreters and teachers at Deaf schools, and many have kept in touch and told me how they use their sign language skills in their profession to communicate with co-workers, clients, patients, and friends.” 

Aleta Hayes headshot

Aleta Hayes | Courtesy Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education

Aleta Hayes, Department of Theater and Performance Studies

Aleta Hayes, senior lecturer and dance coordinator in the Department of Theater and Performance Studies, is a master choreographer, dancer, singer, and performer. She is the founder and artistic director of the Chocolate Heads Movement Band – a collaborative, transdisciplinary dance and performance troupe based on campus.

“As a Stanford alumna, I find teaching Stanford students to be highly satisfying and also humbling,” said Hayes. “I learn from students’ intellect and artistic talent, their passion, and creativity, which in turn inspire my pedagogical process. Our collaborative outcomes are often surprising and always rewarding; with each new season I am driven to expand my teaching methods, to make new interdisciplinary connections across campus, and to find new ways to engender community among students.”

 Jamie Imam headshot

Jamie Imam | Courtesy Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education

Jamie Imam, Department of Biology

Jamie Imam, advanced lecturer in the Department of Biology, received her PhD in genetics from the Stanford School of Medicine. In addition to teaching, Imam is the director of the Honors Program in the Biology Department and a lecturer consultant with the Center for Teaching and Learning. 

“I’m deeply honored and humbled to be a part of this group of incredible educators. This award highlights the invaluable contributions of my fellow lecturers and instructors, whose efforts can sometimes go unrecognized beyond their local impact, ” said Imam. “My ultimate hope is that I’ve positively influenced the journey of my students and colleagues. I’ve witnessed how small gestures can have a lasting impact and strive to bring that care to all of my work.” 

Elizabeth Kessler headshot

Elizabeth Kessler | Courtesy Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education

Elizabeth Kessler, American Studies Program

Elizabeth Kessler, advanced lecturer in the American Studies Program within the School of Humanities and Sciences, focuses her teaching and research on 20th- and 21st-century American visual culture. She is the author of Picturing the Cosmos: Hubble Space Telescope Images and the Astronomical Sublime

“I’m truly thrilled to be honored with a teaching award,” said Kessler. ”I gain so much from teaching, both through course preparation and through my interactions with undergraduates. I often tell students in my seminars that I consider myself as a kind of host for a 10-week-long conversation. I set the table, I invite them to join, I strive to keep things lively and engaging. But the best moments come when they take that conversation to places that I had not anticipated.”