Campus honors UCLA’s 'A-plus' teachers
Distinguished Professor Christopher Tang of the UCLA Anderson School of Management.
When Christopher Tang
is honored next week for his exemplary teaching skills, it won’t be the first time. As Distinguished Professor and Edward W. Carter Chair in Business Administration at the Anderson School of Management, Tang has won almost every teaching award given by the school, some of them more than once.
Now, after 26 years at UCLA, he adds to the list the campuswide Distinguished Teaching Award, "which recognizes academically and professionally accomplished individuals who bring respect and admiration to the scholarship of teaching," according to the Academic Senate Committee on Teaching, which selects recipients from nominations received from colleagues and campus leaders.
Tang joins five Senate faculty colleagues and three non-Senate faculty selected to receive the award this year, along with five teaching assistants. On Nov. 1, they will be honored during the Andrea L. Rich Night to Honor Teaching reception and dinner hosted by Chancellor Gene Block and Mrs. Carol Block at the Chancellor’s Residence. The event is co-sponsored by the Office of Instructional Development and the Academic Senate Committee on Teaching.
Senate faculty colleagues who also won the award this year are Cindy Fan, professor of geography and interim vice-provost for International Studies; Dr. Brandon Koretz, professor of geriatric medicine at the Geffen School of Medicine; Sociology Professor Mignon Moore; Professor Claudia Parodi-Lewin of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese; and Jonathan Stewart, professor and chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
Non-senate faculty winners are Senior Lecturer Stuart Biegel; Ronald Cooper of integrative biology and physiology; and Dr. Michael Lazarus, associate clinical professor of internal medicine. Teaching assistants being recognized are Jacquelyn Ardam of the Department of English; Joslyn Barnhart of political science; J. Wayne Bass, Asian languages and cultures; Luis Cuesta, Spanish and Portuguese; and Kristen Glasgow, history.
Senate faculty winners (from left, clockwise) Claudia Parodi-Lewin, Jonathan Stewart, Cindy Fan, Dr. Brandon Koretz and Mignon Moore.
Like all of his fellow winners, Tang has merited consistently high evaluations and glowing praise for his teaching and mentoring from current and former students and colleagues.
"Professor Tang is one of the main reasons why I applied to UCLA’s FEMBA (Fully Employed M.B.A.)," noted a former student, Kerem Over, a manager in the strategic internal consulting group at Nestlé, in his letter of recommendation for Tang. He has an "exceptional ability to connect with his students and his talent for teaching advanced topics" as well as an intellectual curiosity, excitement and enthusiasm for his field. "He cares deeply about his students … who hold him in the highest esteem."
Said Tang of this most recent honor, "The Distinguished Teaching Award gives me a humble feeling because I am not sure I deserve a special award for doing something that I have loved doing throughout my life.
"The main reason I’m interested in teaching is that I enjoy learning," said Tang, adding that his philosophy stems from Aristotle’s observation that "teaching is the highest form of understanding." "When you teach to someone else, you have to think about how the subject works and why it would be of interest to another person … and to me."
One way Tang prompts his students to more deeply grasp a subject is by having them team up for debates, often on current business issues. "Instead of my projecting my personal view, I let the students analyze, critique and take a stand," he said. Recently, students in one of his classes studied Walmart’s plans to open stores in India, the first multinational company to do so following the lifting of a ban on foreign retailers in that country. Tang’s students debated the benefits of this development for business versus the risk that Walmart will make itself unwelcome by wiping out smaller stores and the jobs that go with them.
The debate approach, Tang said, takes students beyond textbooks into the realm of critical thinking and better prepares them for the real world. Tang also invites interesting speakers to his class, like the operations manager at Mattel who ended up apologizing to the Chinese government for design flaws that led to the recall of millions of toys because lead paint was used. Chinese manufacturers, who found themselves being criticized, were not at fault, this Mattel executive said.
In 2003, Tang led the launch of a new program at Anderson, the UCLA-National University of Singapore Business School Global EMBA Program, in which students travel to sites in Singapore, Shanghai and Bangalore. The program is already considered among the best in the world; it recently earned the No. 5 spot in the Financial Times (UK) 2012 Global EMBA rankings. Anderson School Professor Christopher Erickson, associate dean for global initiatives, noted that students in this program, who are seasoned international executives, "can be a very difficult audience. …[Tang] has consistently been able to effectively engage and challenge the students, while always emphasizing the practical value of the content to businesspeople."
Alumna Catherine Johnson, a corporate marketing manager, recalled in her nomination letter, "I knew I would be fighting jet lag" upon her arrival to the Shanghai portion of the program. Yet "Professor Tang brought his contagious energy and passion to class. He made topics of supply chain and operations come to life … in the compelling way he taught."
"At the end of the day," Tang said philosophically, "the university’s vision is to cultivate young minds so they can think creatively and add value to society, and hopefully make this world a better place. That’s how we can advance civilization."