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LAURELS: Naomi Janowitz wins teaching awards

By Dave Jones on December 7, 2015 in University

Her students and professional colleagues agree: Naomi Janowitz, professor of religious studies, is a great teacher.

Nationally, she will soon receive the American Psychoanalytic Association’s Edith Sabshin Teaching Award. On campus, she’s the 2015 recipient of the University Honors Program Teaching Award, as voted by honors students, and a recipient of a Distinguished Teaching Award from the Academic Senate in 2005.

The Sabshin award recognizes members of the American Psychoanalytic Association who have made outstanding contributions in teaching to noncandidates (those who are not seeking degrees in psychoanalysis).

According to the association, “Teaching noncandidate students is one of the most significant ways in which psychoanalysts contribute to our field, and to education. The late Dr. Edith Sabshin, in whose honor this award is named, was known for her abilities as a ‘natural’ teacher.”

Janowitz’s website lists psychoanalytic approaches to religion as one of her research interests, along with religions of Late Antiquity and methods for the study of religion.

Archana Venkatesan, associate professor and religious studies chair at UC Davis, wrote on the department’s website: “Professor Janowitz embodies the virtues advocated for by the late Dr. Edith Sabshin. This prize is a well-deserved recognition of her commitment to her students and to innovative and creative pedagogy that she brings to the classroom.”

The University Honors Program Teaching Award, given to Janowitz during the program's Fall Welcome, recognizes her work in the 2014-15 academic year when she taught an honors section of Religious Studies 1G: “Myths, Rituals and Symbols,” as well as her signature honors seminar, “The Examined Life.”

Here’s what one RST 1G student had to say about the class and Janowitz: “We engaged in original and hands-on projects, and pondered over fundamental questions of human existence and society that are often missed or dismissed, based on well known and rare readings.

“Professor Janowitz helped teach us how to think and not what to think, and was able to develop a creative atmosphere for the class to exchange ideas and reflect on controversial real-world issues.”

Janowitz concluded her remarks at the award presentation by telling the honors students: “Go forth and become interesting.”


Jennifer Sinclair Curtis, the new dean of the College of Engineering, recently received the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ F.J. & Dorothy Van Antwerpen Award in recognition of her service to the institute.

The award presentation took place in Salt Lake City during the institute’s annual meeting, held in November just a few weeks after her official start as the engineering dean. She came here from the University of Florida where she had served as associate dean for Research and Facilities in the College of Engineering since 2012.

She’s been a faculty member at Purdue University and other institutions, and served as head of the Department of Freshman Engineering and associate dean for Undergraduate Education at Purdue prior to going to Florida.


The National Jurist already considers law school dean Kevin R. Johnson one of the 25 “Most Influential People in Legal Education.” Now the magazine has included him on a list of 20 “Leaders in Diversity,” defined as “outstanding minority law professors who have furthered diversity efforts in legal education.”

The magazine for law students presented the new list as part of an article on “Why Diversity Matters,” in the fall issue.

Johnson, the Mabie-Apallas Professor of Public Interest Law and Chicana/o studies, is an internationally recognized scholar in the fields of immigration law and policy, refugee law, and civil rights.

The National Jurist editors said they compiled their “Leaders in Diversity” list from among more than 100 nominations. “We pared the list down to 20 because their efforts were beyond the norm,” the editors wrote. They referred to Johnson as a “groundbreaker,” the first Latino dean of UC law school, and cited examples of his work in support of diversity:

  • He advocated for U.S. News & World Report to include a diversity index in its rankings of law schools.
  • He helped create the King Hall Outreach Program, or KHOP, which works with undergraduates from underrepresented communities, assisting the students in preparing for the law school admissions process. The program received the California State Bar’s Education Pipeline Award in 2014, recognizing KHOP for its important role in diversifying the legal profession.
  • He has endeavored to further diversify the school’s faculty.
  • He serves on the state bar’s Council on Access and Fairness, the bar’s so-called diversity think tank.


Ning Pan, professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, and also affiliated with Textiles and Clothing, has been elected as a fellow of the American Physical Society for his contributions to research on the mechanics and physics of fibers. Election to fellowship in the society is limited to no more than one-half of 1 percent of the membership, in recognition of outstanding contributions to physics.


UC Davis and the city of Davis each have the same employee on the Sacramento Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” list for 2015: Fire Chief Nate Trauernicht, identified by the Business Journal as one of the region’s outstanding leaders under the age of 40.

Under a shared management agreement between the university and the city, Trauernicht serves as chief of both the campus and city fire departments. In his “40 Under 40” profile, he described the agreement as “a model of intergovernmental partnerships that promote efficiency and improve service” and one of his most significant professional accomplishments.

The Business Journal asked each of this year’s “40 Under 40” to choose one of six words — “altruism,” “creativity,” “ingenuity,” leadership,” “perseverance” or “success” — and define what it means to them.

Trauernicht chose “perseverance”: “The ability to shrug off discouragement, challenge the norm and keep unshakeable focus on delivering best-in-class service.”


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Media contact(s)

Dave Jones, Dateline, 530-752-6556,