A Runaway Success
by Matt Hutaff
Marina Pérez de Mendiola made an unexpected, but not atypical, move when she entered the Motley last April and found a crowd celebrating her win as 2009 Professor of the Year — she ran.
“The moment she came in the door, she walked right back out, completely surprised, tears welling up, face reddening with shock and disbelief,” notes Serena Larkin ’09. “When we finally managed to get her to come back in, students gladly took to the stage to talk about how much she meant to them.”
Despite protests that she was only doing her job, her tears quickly vanished as students, staff, and faculty cheered those who talked about Pérez de Mendiola, professor of Hispanic studies at Scripps since 1998. The consensus? A professor who loves teaching, engages her students, and never lets one rest on her laurels.
“She supports what Scripps and the CORE program are about — breaking down disciplinary boundaries to embark upon a richer process of discovery and understanding,” says Laura Loesch ’09. “Above all, she treats her students like peers — truly listening to our ideas and pushing us to reach beyond what is comfortable or easy.”
Larkin adds: “She never lets you get complacent in your intellectual or political ideology. I took a class from her my first semester of senior year, and I remember the spark she rekindled in my mind. I walked out of every class thinking, ‘Wow, I think differently about the world now.'”
Established in 2008, the Student Choice Award for Professor of the Year is sponsored by Scripps Associated Students. Students submit their nominations for the faculty member they feel best represents Scripps that year, with one selected from the five most popular candidates. Inaugural winner Tony Crowley, Hartley Burr Alexander Professor of Humanities, was on hand to celebrate the passing of the torch — and the commemorative squirrel that accompanies the victor from year to year. Pérez de Mendiola also received a plaque, a book of quotes written about her by students, and a cake with an Octavio Paz book cover as frosting (Paz is one of the professor’s favorite writers).
“It was truly an honor to have been selected by the student body for such a special recognition,” Pérez de Mendiola said as she moved through the crowd, laughing with some and crying with others. “I am particularly grateful to the students for awarding the first two of such awards to two professors in the field of humanities and the study of language, literature, and culture.”
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