2013 Goldman Prize for Excellence in Teaching Awarded to Professors Bryant, Goldfarb, and Sperino
Professors strive to both challenge and engage students daily. Even more, they hope to be dedicated and respectful while commanding some respect of their own. This year’s Goldman Prize awardees demonstrate that professors can embody all of these traits and more. Each year, College of Law students have the opportunity to honor those professors who distinguish themselves in the classroom and who demonstrate excellence in teaching. This year the Goldman Prize Committee recognizes Professors A. Christopher Bryant, Lewis Goldfarb, and Sandra Sperino. The Goldman Prize for Excellence in Teaching is a high honor for faculty members, a point of great pride for those fortunate enough to receive it, and an important expression of our commitment to the best in teaching.
A. Christopher Bryant, Professor of Law
The most common words used by his students to describe Professor A. Christopher Bryant are “engaging” and “engaged” –both deserving characterizations. Professor Bryant not only distinguishes himself as a stellar teacher through his classroom instruction, but also through his interactions with and education of students outside of the classroom.
Professor Bryant teaches courses in highly theoretical, complicated legal topics, such as Constitutional Law, Conflicts of Law, and Legislation & Statutory Interpretation; yet, he manages to engage students on their own terms, providing a clear understanding of the law while captivating them with his animated teaching style. Indeed, students regularly describe him as intelligent and funny; his lighthearted nature, however, allows him to lead conversations on difficult, contentious topics in which all points of view are heard and respected—even in a class of 80 students.
In addition to his exceptional in-classroom teaching abilities, Professor Bryant spends a significant amount of personal time outside of the classroom supporting students in their academic endeavors. He is actively involved with the Moot Court Board, preparing teams for competition; helps individual students with academic projects; and consistently makes himself available to organizations through participation in debates or panels on topics of law relevant to his course of study. Professor Bryant continually demonstrates his commitment to students’ understanding of the law and their personal development, both within and outside of the classroom.
Lewis Goldfarb, Associate Professor of Clinical Law and Director, Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic
In recent years the needs and demands of law school graduates and employers have changed. Both now demand a more practically focused legal education. Professor Lewis Goldfarb has created a program—the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic—that places students directly into the representation process, allowing them to hone their ability to explain legal concepts to clients, spot legal issues for businesses, and draft documents commonly associated with representing a business. In effect, they are building a portfolio of “real life experiences” as lawyers.
By combining his knowledge of theory and his personal experience in the business and legal world, Professor Goldfarb teaches students about matters they will face after law school. Augmenting his own experience, he invites practicing professionals in a variety of specific areas to his classes to speak about and engage in practical situations.
He is genuinely interested in helping students learn. In class, according to a student, “he rarely teaches by lecture, instead relying on the intellectual curiosity of the students in order to drive the conversation organically.” By allowing the students to dictate topics and to form discussion, the class stays relevant and interesting to all, resulting in a more personalized educational experience.
As noted in his nomination letter, “Skill in teaching is often defined in terms of behavior in the classroom or lecture hall. However, there is so much more to excellent teaching than this narrow conception. For a real life example of what that “so much more” entails, one need only look at Professor Goldfarb, who presents the theory of the law to his students in a pragmatic, accessible way—giving them skills to succeed after law school.”
Sandra Sperino, Associate Professor of Law
Ask any student that has experienced a class with Professor Sandra Sperino, and he or she will speak of their appreciation her ability to speak the law on a level that makes the subject matter understandable for nearly anyone. She possesses an ability to walk the line of authoritative and compassionate, all while keeping the mood of class productive and jovial.
Professor Sperino makes sure that each student not only understands the law, but also that they grow as future lawyers. Professor Sperino has an ability to bring out the best in all of her students, and she is able to do so because she knows each of them personally. She’ll walk them through some of the most intricate matters of law and will meet with each student that desires to, whether that is via person, phone, email, or even FaceTime. The bottom line: Professor Sperino is an instructor that cares about more than just teaching the law; she truly cares about her students and their ability to learn such law.
Professor Sperino’s scholarship focuses on employment discrimination, and her recent work focuses on the intersection of tort and discrimination law. Her most recent articles are published in the Michigan Law Review, the University of Illinois Law Review, the George Mason Law Review, and the Notre Dame Law Review. A forthcoming essay, Diminishing Retaliation Liability (co-authored with Alex Long) is forthcoming in the NYU Law Review Online. As stated in her nomination letter, “Professor Sperino shows immense poise balancing the demands of …commitments while helping mold the minds of tomorrow’s lawyers, inside and outside of the class.”
About the Goldman Prize for Teaching Excellence
The Goldman Prize has been awarded for over 30 years to recognize excellence in teaching. This award is unique because students nominate and choose the recipients—their professors. To make this decision, the committee also considers the professors’ research and public service as they contribute to superior performance in the classroom.