Congratulations to my friends and colleagues Selina Farrell, Director of Academic Excellence and Associate Professor of Legal Research and Writing, and Bob Pushaw, James Wilson Endowed Professor of Law, for receiving Pepperdine University's highest teaching honor, the Howard A. White Award for Teaching Excellence:
This annual award honors the legacy of Pepperdine University's fifth president, Dr. Howard A. White, who was a gifted teacher and scholar of history and a faithful steward of the University throughout his thirty years of service to Pepperdine. The Howard A. White Award is the highest distinction given at Pepperdine for teaching and recognizes outstanding educators who embody the institution's commitment to excellence. This award highlights the work of teachers who inspire and challenge students to think critically and creatively as well as those who instill in their students a lifetime love of learning.
This is the first time in 12 years that two law school professors have received the university's annual teaching award. I was proud to support their nominations:
Selina works tirelessly with students, motivating them to strive and achieve so that they can successfully pass the California Bar Exam. She regularly teaches courses related to professionalism and academic mastery, including the Introduction to Professional Formation and the Bar Exam Workshop. Students regularly express how grateful they are for Selina’s efforts, which helped make sure that they were prepared to be lawyers when they graduated. To get a sense of the student experience she provides, consider the following three excerpts from student evaluations:
- Selina is known to all for how much she cares about her students: Dean Farrell is an angel of a human being. It is obvious that she cares about student success. Even when she was feeling a bit off, she made every effort to make sure that we understood our assignments. I am grateful to know her, and look forward to studying for the Bar with the tools she has given us!
- Selina inspires students to succeed: Professor Farrell is absolutely one of the best professors I have had at Pepperdine Law. She is a big reason why I chose to come to Pepperdine. Throughout this class she was nothing but a great professor and person to talk to about the bar exam. She is extremely professional, kind, inspirational and I will remember the tips she told us for the bar exam and I will actually remember her as an inspiration in how to be as a person and as an attorney. One of the best, if not the best! I would highly recommend other students take a course with her. She had a great impact on me.
- Finally, Selina provides students with the tools they need to succeed: I cannot say enough good things about Dean Farrell. She really cares for the students and presents information in a way that is 1) thought out, 2) easily understood, 3) applicable. She always makes time to help students and is genuinely concerned for our wellbeing in and outside of the classroom. She is a wonderful resource and Pepperdine is lucky to have her.
The timing of the announcement is particularly propitious, as much of Selina's work over the past three years will bear fruit tomorrow and Tuesday when our graduates take the California bar exam in the most challenging circumstances in our lifetimes.
To put it in a sentence, Bob is one of the great jewels of the law school faculty. Bob is a world-renowned legal scholar—one the most prominent constitutional law professors in the country—who is uncompromising in his commitment to teaching. This dual commitment provides students with an experience that brings the very best the legal academy has to offer into the classroom. Cutting edge ideas become the content of the classroom and, in turn, inspire students to reflect this aspiration for greatness in their thinking, writing and, ultimately, practice. For these reasons, it would be hard to find a more deserving candidate for an award that recognizes critical thinking, creativity, mastery, and rigor. These words, when put together, describe Bob to a tee. Below are some excerpts from student evaluations to further elaborate:
- As already expressed, Bob is one of the most well-regarded constitutional law experts in the country and his students recognize it from the classroom experience. As one student put it, Professor Pushaw has near encyclopedic level knowledge about the intricacies of Federal Courts. He is very well qualified to teach this course and his passion for the subject matter is inspiring and engaging. Similarly, another noted, He is clearly very knowledgeable and passionate about the subject. He is also very willing to get to know students and goes over and beyond to helping them understand.
- He cares deeply about the law and wants his students to have deep, rigorous legal education so that they are prepared as thinkers, lawyers and citizens. Consider the following three extended excerpts from students about Bob:
Prof. Pushaw is hands-down one of the best professors at Pepperdine. He is brilliant but also cares deeply about his students, which is evident in his emails and class demeanor. He is always available to answer questions and have discussions about the law (or about anything, really) and always gives well thought out answers.
Prof. Pushaw is the best professor at this school. Over the course of my 2 years at Pepperdine, Prof. Pushaw has made me glad I chose Pepperdine for law school. He is a rare breed of instructor who was so clearly meant to be a teacher. He truly cares about his students and encourages his pupils to think, not just memorize rules.
It's obvious [Professor Pushaw] truly loves teaching and cares about students. Professor Pushaw is always available to talk with students and can answer any question. He loves the Constitution and the law and you can tell he enjoys sharing that love with students. It's clearly more than just a job for him. I always looked forward to his lectures and contagious enthusiasm for the subject matter. Students in class were always engaged and felt safe to ask questions and challenge the lectures. The way Professor Pushaw teaches is exactly what I hoped for when coming to law school, and I consider myself lucky to have the privilege of being in his class.
- Finally, Bob is willing to counsel, provide guidance and help students in whatever way they need. It is hard to emphasize how important this is. Many great legal scholars remain in their books and do not model the kind of care for others that is essential to Pepperdine as a community. When students meet Bob, they learn quickly that he is a different breed of legal scholar. One student explained, he met with me in his office hours to discuss judicial philosophy for a few hours to help me prepare for an interview. I really enjoyed class with Professor Pushaw, and wish I would have taken more classes with him! Another noted Professor Pushaw is unbelievably willing to work with students outside of class and take time to help them with whatever it is they are doing, be it studying for his class, working on an extra-curricular project, or doing something job related. He really takes time for students in a way that shows his care for them.