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Master Teacher: All-University Teaching Award

By Rob Seal

Professor Risa Goluboff E-mail  E-mail   print  Print
Professor Risa Goluboff is a winner of the University of Virginia’s 2011 All-University Teaching Award, an annual award given to a select few faculty members in recognition of teaching excellence.

“Risa has mastered two of the most difficult tasks in law teaching,” said Dean Paul G. Mahoney. “She inspires second- and third-year students to put aside the distractions of job searches and extracurricular activities to devote themselves thoroughly to her courses. She also successfully teaches topics to which the students have strong emotional responses, such as race and sex discrimination, while neither ignoring ideological disagreements nor letting them overwhelm analysis of the legal issues.”

Goluboff, who is the Caddell & Chapman Professor of Law as well as a professor of history, joined the faculty in 2002. She earned her law degree from Yale Law School and her Ph.D. in history from Princeton University.

“I am incredibly humbled by this award. Ever since I came to UVA Law School, I have been impressed by how seriously my colleagues take teaching,” Goluboff said. “The faculty discuss it over lunch, in each other’s offices, in the halls. I have always been proud to be part of an academic community that really thinks about pedagogy and cares deeply about the students. To be honored for the part I play in that enterprise means so much to me.”

After law school, Goluboff clerked for Judge Guido Calabresi of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and then for Justice Stephen G. Breyer of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Both current and former students praised Goluboff’s teaching ability. Carrie Apfel ’05 took Goluboff’s Civil Rights Litigation course in 2003. “From the first day of the class, Professor Goluboff connected with her students with an energy and enthusiasm that made the class both interesting and engaging,” Apfel said.

A current student, Max Twine, praised Goluboff for creating a “vibrant, supportive atmosphere for dialogue and critique” inside the context of the socially charged issues of 20th-century constitutional history, such as abortion rights and affirmative action. “Professor Goluboff did not shy from the risks that the material posed,” Twine said. “She was calm, unabashed and respectful of disagreement, and the class followed her example.”

Professor Micah Schwartzman ’05 is both a former student of Goluboff’s and a current colleague. In 2004, he was a student in her Civil Rights Litigation class. “It was a tough crowd and this was early in Risa’s teaching career,” Schwartzman said. “But if she had any concerns, Risa certainly didn’t show it. She was great in the classroom — rigor and precision with respect to the law goes without saying, but she also had a huge amount of energy, vitality and — of equal importance — sympathy, since it is not always easy to understand the law.”

Schwartzman said his own experiences teaching constitutional law have given him an even deeper appreciation for Goluboff’s skill as a teacher. “It is really hard to do what she does,” he said.

Goluboff said one of the best parts of the awards process has been the chance to reflect on her teaching. “I’m not sure that I have ever, or will ever, live up to the kind words of my students and colleagues, but I am truly touched by them,” she said. “Maybe even more importantly, hearing others describe my teaching has enabled me to be more self-conscious about my goals as a teacher and how I can better achieve them.”

Previous winners of the award include law professors Jim Ryan’92; Caleb Nelson; J. H. “Rip” Verkerke; John C. Harrison; Barry Cushman’86; Kenneth S. Abraham; Anne M. Coughlin; and Paul G. Mahoney.