October 25, 1999
Psychology professor receives teaching award
By Jennifer McNulty
Jean Fox Tree, an assistant professor of psychology at UCSC, was honored by the Division
of Social Sciences last week for her excellence in teaching.
Fox Tree, whose work was recently written up by the New York Times and featured
on National Public Radio, specializes in speech comprehension. She received the
Division of Social Sciences' 1998-99 Distinguished Teaching Award at an annual division
convocation hosted by Dean Martin Chemers.
|Jean Fox Tree
Photo: Jon Kersey
The award, which recognizes outstanding undergraduate teaching in the social sciences,
carries with it a $500 cash prize and an engraved plaque that features a "golden
"Jean Fox Tree's teaching evaluations from students are consistently enthusiastic,
citing her lecture skills, her dedication, and her eagerness to share her material
with undergraduates," said Chemers. "Her teaching inspires us all, and
I am pleased to honor her work with this award."
Fox Tree studies the role played in speech comprehension by words like um, uh, oh,
I mean, and you know. These "discourse markers" are a hallmark of spontaneous
speech but have been overlooked by most scholars, who consider them unimportant,
Fox Tree's work has shown that these "throwaways" play specific roles
in communication, sending signals to the listener to pay more attention, help the
speaker find a word, or be patient while the speaker gathers his or her thoughts.
Fox Tree suspects that rather than hindering comprehension, these cues actually help
us understand each other.
Fox Tree was selected by Chemers from a list of recommendations compiled by a faculty
committee based on nominations put forth by department chairs. The committee was
chaired by Daniel Press, Pepper-Giberson Associate Professor of Environmental Studies.
The annual awards were established in 1991.
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