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October 7, 2002

New award honors three generations of scholarship at UCSC

By Ann M. Gibb

An innovative award, linking three generations of academic excellence at UCSC, will be presented for the first time during Stevenson College Night on October 8.

Bruce Thompson, left, received the first John Dizikes Award, which enabled him to select student Shelby Polakoff to receive a scholarship. John Dizikes is at right. Photo: Ann M. Gibb

History lecturer Bruce Thompson is the recipient of the first John Dizikes Award, established this year by the Humanities Division to honor outstanding teaching by humanities faculty, and named in honor of one of UCSC's founding faculty members.

In addition to his $3,000 award, the recognition enables Thompson to select an undergraduate to receive a $3,000 scholarship. Thompson has chosen Shelby Polakoff, a literature major, as the scholarship recipient.

"I remember seeing a flyer announcing the establishment of the John Dizikes Award," said Thompson, "and I thought it was a wonderful idea. I think John's one of the most extraordinary teachers I've ever met. It never occurred to me that I'd be the first recipient of an award named for him."

Dizikes, a professor emeritus of American studies, came to UCSC in 1965. A winner of the UCSC Alumni Association's Distinguished Teaching Award, Dizikes has published numerous books and articles, served as Cowell College provost, and mentored thousands of students during his career at UCSC. He continues to be an active member of the campus community.

In announcing Thompson as the Dizikes award winner, dean of humanities Wlad Godzich cited Thompson's intellectual influence on undergraduates and graduates, his support and advising to large numbers of students, and his ability to teach many different topics in history. Thompson has taught at UCSC for 10 years, offering a variety of courses including surveys of modern European history, cinema history, Jewish American fiction, and seminars on the history of Paris and London, among others.

When it came to choosing the scholarship recipient, Thompson found it a hard choice because he has worked with many excellent students. He chose Polakoff for her strong writing skills, active participation in class and discussion sections, and ability to maintain a high quality of scholarship while balancing her studies with other campus activities, such as editing the student newspaper City on a Hill.

"She had a wonderful eye for a good feature story," said Thompson. "And Shelby is one of those students who has a genuine love and excitement about learning. You know it from the first moment you encounter her in the classroom."

Polakoff, who is from San Diego, was completing a journalism internship in Washington, D.C., when she got an e-mail from Thompson about the scholarship. "I was ecstatic when I found out," said Polakoff. "What made this award truly special was that it was given to me by a teacher I respect and admire." Polakoff has taken history and literature classes with Thompson each year since she entered UCSC. "Bruce is so motivated in his teaching, he makes the students motivated, too," said Polakoff.

"The opportunity to share an award with a student is just great," said Thompson. "And I get to introduce one of my favorite teachers to one of my favorite students."

Stevenson College Night, held twice each quarter, is open to students, faculty, and staff of Stevenson.

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