Professor Michael Gilbert Receives Student Council Distinguished Teaching Award

Michael Gilbert

Michael Gilbert is the Sullivan & Cromwell Professor of Law and teaches courses on legislation, law and economics, and election law.

October 14, 2015

University of Virginia School of Law professor Michael Gilbert has received the UVA Student Council Distinguished Teaching Award. He received 30 letters of recommendation from students and is the first law faculty member to be selected for the honor.

Gilbert, who teaches courses on legislation, law and economics, and election law, received the honor during a Monday evening ceremony at Newcomb Hall. The award is given annually to recognize a teacher who makes a positive and lasting impact on the University by developing relationships with students through the creation of an engaging and challenging classroom atmosphere.

"I'm surprised and a little embarrassed to be singled out," said Gilbert, the Sullivan & Cromwell Professor of Law. "But I'm also gratified and deeply honored."

Gilbert joined the law faculty in 2009, having previously clerked for Judge William A. Fletcher on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco. Gilbert received his Ph.D. from the Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program at the University of California at Berkeley. He also received his J.D. from Berkeley, where he served as articles editor of the California Law Review, was an Olin Fellow in Law and Economics, and was the recipient of a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Recipients of the award are chosen by a selection committee composed of undergraduate and graduate students who consider both quantity and quality of nominating letters, said Shelbey Keegan, co-chair of the Student Council Academic Affairs Committee.

"Out of 65 nominations, Professor Gilbert received a whopping total of 30, and each nomination was clearly very sincere and demonstrated to us how deserving he is of the award," Keegan said.

Joel Johnson, a 2015 Law School graduate, was one of the students who submitted a letter nominating Gilbert for the award.

"Never have I seen a law school classroom in which so many students voluntarily participate," Johnson wrote. "In him, we students see our best selves."

The letter was co-signed by current and previous law students Kristin Eberhart '16, Drew Gann '15, Genevieve Hoffman '15, Thomas Johnson '15, Andrew Lemens '16, Charlie Merritt '15, Franklin Sacha '15 and Taylor Steffan '15.

The group praised Gilbert's ability to relate obscure legal doctrines to students' cultural touchstones.

"In his Law and Economics class he has illustrated the economic reasoning that underlies criminal behavior by drawing on episodes of 'The Wire,' the principle of the tipping point by discussing the changing fashion of Brooklynites, and hidden costs by way of an example having to do with yuppies and diaper disposal," Johnson wrote. "His lectures are serious, but they are laced with nerdy asides, self-effacing jokes, and subtle jabs at the absurdities of life.

"The upshot of all this is that students learn the material, and we learn it well. We have a great time learning because we feel as though we've made a friend in Professor Gilbert."

David Martin, another 2015 graduate, also submitted a letter on Gilbert's behalf and described the professor's dedication to teaching beyond the classroom.

"At one point I visited his office hours to discuss my irritation with several pieces of election law jurisprudence," Martin wrote. Gilbert ended up guiding Martin's independent research project on the subject. "Partly by virtue of his encouragement throughout the process, it has been one of the most fulfilling parts of my three years in law school."

In addition to the Distinguished Teaching Award, the council also bestowed on Monday the Leonard W. Sandridge Student Partnership Award to undergraduate biology professor Sarah Kucenas and the Student Council Superlative Teaching Assistant Award to Anna Eisenstein, an undergraduate anthropology major.

Recent Faculty Accolades

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

News Highlights