Honored to Teach

September 4, 2018

CCS Physics faculty member Sathya Guruswamy receives Distinguished Teaching Award

by Kailyn Kausen

Sathya Guruswamy
Sathya Guruswamy

UC Santa Barbara’s College of Creative Studies congratulates Dr. Sathya Guruswamy, CCS Physics faculty, for receiving the 2018 UCSB Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award. This award acknowledges faculty members who have successfully united excellence in teaching with excellence in creative and scholarly work. Through her focus on giving students the tools needed to succeed, Guruswamy fully embodies this spirit.

Interim Dean Bruce Tiffney remarked, “I am delighted that the commitment of CCS faculty to undergraduate education has been recognized by yet another Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award. Sathya has dedicated long hours and extensive energy to the education of our physics students, and to their growth as colleagues in explicating the challenges of physics. It is marvelous that her commitment has been recognized by this award.”

Guruswamy learned that she won the award when it was announced in a CCS student-led colloquium she was supervising. “It feels great to be appreciated by students and to receive this once-in-a-career recognition,” she said. “I feel honored, of course, but also inspired to do even more for my students.”

Guruswamy’s favorite elements of teaching in the College are the curiosity and enthusiasm of students. She described a time early in her career when she was leading a class during a torrential rainstorm. As this was a supplemental lecture, on material from a course she was creating, she expected 15% attendance during the downpour, but all the students were there. “The students were ready with their notebooks and pencils and there was the happy chatter that precedes the class,” she recalled of the moment. “How can you not love teaching such students?” She continued, “That day I also knew I was creating a course that was valuable without having the responses via formal course feedback forms.” Another moment stands out. She gave a challenging problem to the students of an upper division class. Several times during the week, she heard students discussing the problem with enthusiasm in the halls. “They were intrigued and simply enjoying doing Physics for the sake of it!”

Guruswamy also enjoys the freedom CCS gives her to design new classes. “The most recent course I created is Introduction to Research,” she noted. “It is a joy to see students who came in not knowing anything about the research process now working in research labs over the summer.”

On her teaching methods, she has a few basic tenets. “Don’t underestimate students. Give them all the resources, give them your time, show them you care, then challenge them and they’ll stretch to meet it.” She also believes in adapting your teaching style to the audience, “but by no means lower the standards.” While her classes are deliberately intense, “the focus is to give the students a strong education and prepare them for an analytical career.”

Guruswamy thanks two allies for their support. “One is CCS Emeritus faculty member Francesc Roig, for his friendship, and conversations where he shared his own teaching experiences. And the other person is the previous Physics Chair Don Marolf, for his faith in me and his unwavering support when I was trying out teaching innovations in the Physics department – he was fantastic, and I cannot overstate the importance of having his support.”



Will Proctor

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