O'Brien receives Phi Beta Kappa's 2006 Teaching Award
June 12th, Alyssa O’Brien arrived at the faculty
club expecting to attend a relatively routine lunch meeting.
Little did she realize that she had been lured there under
the meeting began, Marvin quickly cut to the chase, informing
a visibly surprised Alyssa that the meeting had nothing
to do with the UAP/URP merger, and that it had, in fact,
everything to do with her. At that moment, Susie Brubaker-Cole,
Managing Director of the newly merged program, admitted
that she was attending the “meeting” under
another guise – as the secretary of Phi Beta Kappa
– and that Alyssa had won this year’s Phi
Beta Kappa Teaching Prize.
receiving her Phi Beta Kappa award plaque from PBK
Secretary, Susie Brubaker-Cole.
Phi Beta Kappa Teaching Prize is an award given annually
to a Stanford teacher who has demonstrated excellence
in her teaching and interaction with undergraduates. What
makes this prize unique is that the criteria change from
year to year – each spring, the members of Phi Beta
Kappa meet to establish the nominating criteria for that
year’s award. This year, the members developed the
in teaching in and beyond the classroom demonstrated through
the passion to inspire personal and intellectual development.
This includes encouraging critical and analytic thinking,
taking an active interest in students as individuals,
influencing the way students think about the world, and
engaging and valuing student ideas and perspectives.”
As Andrea pointed
out when asked about the award, it is also unique for its
nomination process: "The Phi Beta Kappa Outstanding
Teaching Award is one of the most prestigious awards our
University gives and one that is determined entirely by
students. It is very exciting that the students have chosen
Alyssa to receive this award, based on their assessment
of her teaching in and out of the classroom."
Nominations are accepted from all members of the senior
class, but the recipient is decided upon by the members
of Phi Beta Kappa. Alyssa was nominated by her former PWR
student, Jonathan Hwang ('06), who had this to say about
Alyssa in a speech that he delivered at the official ceremony
on Friday, June 15th:
becoming a better writer, Dr. O’Brien’s class
gave me the opportunity to discover one of my passions
in life. When choosing a topic [for my research paper],
Dr. O’Brien challenged me to write about something
that I truly cared about. Following her advice, I chose
to analyze a political cartoon depicting the relationship
between China and Taiwan in my first writing project.
Soon, I was hooked on researching the history and political
relationship between China, Taiwan, and the US. Dr. O’Brien
encouraged me to pursue the topic further, eventually
leading me to write a major research paper on the subject.
She continued to challenge me to view the topic from multiple
angles from the Chinese, Taiwanese, and American points
of view She not only demanded excellent writing from me,
but she also wanted a complete, unbiased, and critical
analysis of a complex political relationship.
In the end,
Dr. O’Brien’s class was not a mere writing
class; it was a history and politics class that led me
to question and discover my own Taiwanese heritage and
identity. I think Dr. O’Brien for giving me the
opportunity to find my passion and the guts to pursue
work in addition to and outside of my engineering major.”
To anyone who has had the pleasure of visiting Alyssa’s
classroom or in talking with her about her pedagogical strategies
and her approach to interacting with students, this award
should come as no surprise. Marvin summed it up nicely in
a recent comment on her award: “It's both gratifying
and appropriate that the student who nominated her and the
Phi Beta Kappa selection committee have recognized Alyssa's
excellence as a writing teacher. She's fully committed to
helping her students grow as writers and researchers, expending
tremendous effort to guide and inspire them.”
Be sure to visit
Alyssa’s office next quarter to see her shiny plaque
and to congratulate her on this well-deserved award!
with Marvin, Andrea, and Clyde at her award luncheon.