Michael Gilbert Receives All-University Teaching Award

Encouraging Participation, Professor Helps Students Gain Comprehensive Understanding
Michael Gilbert

Professor Michael Gilbert, the Martha Lubin Karsh and Bruce A. Karsh Bicentennial Professor of Law, is a perennial favorite of students. Photo by Jesús Pino

April 10, 2020

Professor Michael Gilbert of the University of Virginia School of Law has been named a recipient of this year’s All-University Teaching Award. The award celebrates top-notch instruction across Grounds. 

Gilbert, who teaches courses on elections law, legislation, and law and economics, is a perennial favorite of students for his gentle and relatable teaching style that encourages participation. Those who joined the nominations included current and former students, as well as his peers. 

Student feedback from his recent courses often referred to him as the best or one of the best professors they have ever had. 

“Professor Gilbert is an incredible instructor,” a student who took his fall Constitutional Law and Economics course wrote. “He takes complex, esoteric concepts and communicates them in a way that is accessible and memorable.”  

Dean Risa Goluboff was among those formally joining the nomination. Vice Dean Leslie Kendrick ’06 and Professor Anne Coughlin coordinated on his behalf. 

“Mike Gilbert is an outstanding teacher,” Kendrick said. “He works tirelessly, using his rare blend of analytical and emotional intelligence to assess what his students need and to provide them the building blocks to succeed. With his instruction and support, students become experts in complex subjects such as economic analysis of law, statutory interpretation and election law. He is the kind of teacher that makes UVA Law great, and he is highly deserving of this award.” 

In 2015, Gilbert was the first UVA Law professor to win the UVA Student Council Distinguished Teaching Award. Such recognitions reflect the joy he takes in his work. 

“I love spending time with the students, working through hard problems together, and demystifying [court] opinions,” Gilbert said. “I take a lot of pleasure in that last step. Once you get past the convoluted language, the ideas are often not so complicated. They may be controversial, but they’re not complicated. I like revealing that. It shows the students, and it reminds me, that we can do this.” 

He said students paid him what may be the ultimate teaching compliment recently. They let him know that they had gained the feeling of comprehensive learning.   

“I recently taught Law and Economics to a large group of students,” he said. “Towards the end of the semester, I was talking with some of them, and they told me the course should be renamed ‘How Everything Works.’ That’s an exaggeration, perhaps, but I appreciated the sentiment.”   

Gilbert is the Martha Lubin Karsh and Bruce A. Karsh Bicentennial Professor of Law. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he is an inaugural scholar in UVA’s Corruption Lab on Ethics, Accountability, and the Rule of Law, also known as CLEAR. 

Winning the award, “makes me proud and a little sheepish,” Gilbert said. “The University has many excellent teachers, and I’m humbled to be singled out.”   

Read more about this year’s recipients

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.

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