Professor of the Year Caesar Sereseres
Professor of the Year Caesar Sereseres (lower left) was lauded at the 18th annual Celebration of Teaching for his "absolute commitment to student learning, development and academic success." William Alvarez / Teaching, Learning & Technology Center

It’s one thing to have a passing compliment trickle in. Sure, it can buoy one’s spirits. But what about compliments that flood in from many different sources? They demand recognition.

And that’s just what happened at the Celebration of Teaching and Excellence in Leadership awards ceremonies, which honored the contributions of outstanding UC Irvine faculty and staff, respectively.

On May 26, Sharon Salinger, Division of Undergraduate Education dean, welcomed a crowd gathered to fete faculty who “brighten the pathway” at the 18th annual Celebration of Teaching event.

One of those shining beacons was Caesar Sereseres, political science professor, who earned the Professor of the Year award for his work inside and outside the classroom.

Diane O’Dowd, developmental & cell biology professor, presented the award and said she was honored “to recognize his extraordinary contribution both in terms of breadth and depth to undergraduate education at UCI.”

She shared excerpts of nomination letters from faculty, staff and students praising Sereseres. Many mentioned his 20-year service as associate dean of undergraduate studies in the School of Social Sciences.

Highlighted as well was his “reinvigoration” of the Social Sciences Summer Academic Enrichment Program, designed to motivate and equip first-generation undergraduates to attend graduate school.

Also noted was the “staggering number of students” Sereseres has mentored over the past 15 years through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.

A staff member added, “He’s an integral part of the campus and local community. He has an absolute commitment to student learning, development and academic success.”

Honorees, selected from more than 60 nominations campuswide, received a $1,000 contribution to their professional development accounts and an engraved award. Sponsors of the awards include Salinger; Frances Leslie, dean of Graduate Education; the Office of Information Technology; and the Teaching, Learning, & Technology Center.

Chancellor Michael Drake thanked them for their commitment to teaching, saying, “Excellence isn’t something we can sacrifice, and at the core of that excellence is stimulating our young men and women to become the leaders of tomorrow.”

Perhaps the most powerful message about the impact faculty can make was from one of those future leaders, talking about Sereseres’ positive influence on his life: “When I leave UC Irvine, it is his Anteater legacy I will be working to honor.”

Other Celebration of Teaching winners were:

Lecturer of the Year: Benjamin Hafensteiner, chemistry, School of Physical Sciences

Teaching Assistant Professional Development & Mentoring Award: Phil Collins, physics & astronomy, School of Physical Sciences

Instructional Technology Innovation Award: James Bullock, physics & astronomy, School of Physical Sciences

Most Promising Future Faculty Members: Jessica Pratt, ecology & evolutionary biology, School of Biological Sciences; and Frank MacCrory, Paul Merage School of Business

Deans also acknowledged school honorees for excellence in undergraduate teaching: Philip Thompson, drama, Claire Trevor School of the Arts; Georg Striedter, neurobiology & behavior, School of Biological Sciences; Zheng Sun, finance, The Paul Merage School of Business; Thurston Domina, Department of Education; Farzin Zareian, civil & environmental engineering, Henry Samueli School of Engineering; Scott Bartell, public health, College of Health Sciences; Kristen Hatch, film & media studies, School of Humanities; Magda El Zarki, computer science, Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences; Andrew Borovik, chemistry, School of Physical Sciences; Elizabeth Cauffman, psychology & social behavior, School of Social Ecology; and Lisa Pearl, cognitive sciences, School of Social Sciences.

On June 2, Staff Assembly’s Excellence in Leadership Award Program recognized supervisors who enhance office morale, build an enriching work environment, and mentor or otherwise support the career development of their staff. Each received $1,000 and a personalized memento.

The four award winners were:

Brian Breen, director of corporate training for University Extension, whose staff describes him as a “servant leader,” one who gives priority to, and fulfills the needs of, the individuals he serves. His leadership style was noted as enhancing his team’s morale as well as their personal and professional development.

Marc Beauregard of UC Irvine Medical Center’s security department, whose leadership style is described as “straight out of the noncommissioned officers leadership handbook,” adding that leading by example is something he believes in and lives by.

Dave Leinen, assistant dean of the School of Social Sciences, was noted for his persistent optimism and “can-do” attitude as well as maintaining an enriching work environment by treating his employees with respect and dignity.

Carolyn Willmann, director of student affairs for the School of Biological Sciences, was noted for her courage, integrity, wisdom and enthusiasm. Her staff indicated they have grown professionally and personally through Willmann’s leadership.

A full list of Excellence in Leadership nominees is online.