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Benjamin McKean and Alan van Beek

Student Council Outstanding Teaching Awards, 2021

The College of Arts and Sciences Student Council has selected Benjamin McKean, associate professor of political science, to receive the 2020–2021 Outstanding Teaching Award. Alan van Beek, PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science, received the 2020–2021 Outstanding Graduate Associate Teaching Award on behalf of Student Council.

These annual awards are particularly notable because they are the only teaching awards completely administered by students.

Benjamin McKeanMcKean is a political theorist whose research concerns global justice, populism and the relationship between theory and practice. He was recognized for his enthusiasm for teaching, his attentiveness to students and their interests, and his ability to foster participation and collaborative thinking.

“Professor McKean was always interactive with his students,” one of his students wrote. “(He) always made sure his class was a positive and safe environment for every student. I learned a lot from him, and I appreciate how he always wished the best for his students.”

“Not only is Professor McKean very clearly passionate about the topics he teaches, but he has a clear understanding of the situations of students,” another of his students wrote. “He is thoughtful and takes constructive suggestions from his students.”

In addition to the award’s recognition, McKean will be presented with a plaque and receive a one-time $1,000 award. 

Alex van BeekVan Beek’s research focuses on international bargaining and the factors that inform the strategic context of leaders. His teaching excelled through his responsiveness to student feedback, commitment to transmitting knowledge from research, and leadership of non-traditional, interactive learning. He was described as passionate, knowledgeable, fair and helpful.

“He is really nice to his students, and he’s willing to help his students succeed in the class,” wrote one of van Beek’s students. “He is really good at teaching and he knows a lot about his major field, which makes his class interesting.”

In addition to the award’s recognition, van Beek will receive a plaque and a one-time $500 award. 

This year, Student Council received approximately 140 nominations for the Outstanding Teaching Award and 50 nominations for the Outstanding Graduate Associate Teaching Award.  Of those nominations, Student Council selected several finalists for further review. This included a review of the nominees’ CVs and SEI scores, virtual interviews with members of Student Council and reviews of classroom teaching.

The Outstanding Teaching Award has been in existence since 1947, while Student Council initiated the Outstanding Graduate Associate Teaching Award in 2010 in response to the valuable contributions GTAs provide to teaching. A list of past recipients may be found on Student Council’s web page.