UCI Celebration of Teaching: Professors Rebecca Black and Katie Salen Tekinbaş Named Dean’s Honorees

May 14, 2021

For more than 25 years, UCI’s Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation (DTEI) has been recognizing faculty, instructors and teaching assistants at its annual Celebration of Teaching event, honoring those who have demonstrated excellence in undergraduate teaching. The pandemic forced the cancellation of the event the last two years, so DTEI created a series of videos to recognize the Celebration of Teaching award winners for 2020 and 2021.

2020 Honoree: Rebecca Black

Informatics Professor Rebecca Black was named the 2020 Dean’s Honoree for the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS). In an online speech, Dean Marios Papaefthymiou praised Black for being an exceptional instructor and dedicated mentor. “She receives excellent student teaching evaluations with overwhelmingly positive comments that praise her exceptional dedication to the students and course material.”

“The Dean’s Honoree for Undergraduate Teaching is such an honor to receive because it’s based, in particular, on the work that I’m doing with students,” says Black. “I’m hoping that the students in my courses this past year have felt connected and supported even though we weren’t able to meet in person.”

Black studies online learning in informal spaces, and she is also part of a large-scale Department of Education grant with UCI Professors Carol Booth Olson and Robin Scarcella, focused on using cognitive strategies to support students’ development of academic literacy. “We really had to scramble this year to translate materials that were meant to be delivered in person by middle and high school teachers across the country into an online format that goes directly to the students,” says Black. Initial student and teacher feedback suggests the online lessons have been engaging, and assessments of data collected thus far indicate the effectiveness of the lessons. “It’s quite exciting to have these indications that we were able to successfully pull together as a team and work with our partner teachers and school districts — who were thrust into online teaching with little to no notice — to support students’ literacy skills.”

2021 Honoree: Katie Salen Tekinbaş

In a second video, Papaefthymiou introduced Informatics Professor Katie Salen Tekinbaş as the 2021 Dean’s Honoree. Noting her extensive academic and industry experience computer game design, play and learning, he talked about how she brings that experience “to her courses and our curriculum in game studies.” In particular, he quoted a comment made in a student evaluation: “She’s passionate and knowledgeable about the subject of game design [and] always encourages us to apply what we’ve learned.”

He also praised Salen Tekinbaş for her development of the new course, Informatics H81: Ethics, Technology and Design, and for her efforts to broaden the computer game science degree into the new Game Design and Interactive Media (GDIM) program, which offers multiple options of study connected to various career paths in computer gaming.

“I was humbled to receive this kind of recognition during a very difficult year,” says Salen Tekinbaş. “All of my usual strategies for engaging students and building community in the classroom had to be rethought and reimagined, which was fun but also really challenging. I looked for ways to infuse my online courses with purposeful play, which has always been central to my teaching practice.”

Shani Murray