TOP: Anthropology’s Cori Hayden, with flowers, balloons, and certificate — the official swag of a mentoring award surprise — with applauding GSIs, who surreptitiously nominated her. BOTTOM: left, ESPM’s Patina Mendez, tracked down while teaching al fresco and congratulated by Jeff Reimer, chair of the Advisory Committee on GSI Affairs (and professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering); right, Ediucation’s Sophia Rabe-Hesketh, party favors in hand, listens to complimentary quotes from her nominators. (photos: Peg Skorpinski)

Keeping the feline contained

So far, nobody’s let the cat out of the bag, so the surprise has been total in every case.

Despite Berkeley’s long tradition of protest and California’s reputation for spontaneity, faculty members here simply don’t expect to be interrupted by outsiders while they’re teaching a class. At least initially, they’re more puzzled than incensed. When it dawns on them that the invasion brings unexpected but happy news for them personally, decorum goes out the window, and they’re just pleased. A bit embarrassed, even flabbergasted, but genuinely pleased.

On three occasions in late April and early May, when a team dispatched by the Graduate Division’s GSI Center trooped into three separate classrooms to  confer the 2012 Faculty Awards for Mentoring of GSIs, the recipients’ reactions were right out of the playbook, established when the honors were first presented by ambush in 2009 to Robert Reich and Gordon Silverstein.

This year the astonished awardees were Cori Hayden, associate professor of Anthropology (and a UC-Santa Cruz product), Patina Mendez, lecturer in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (who earned her Ph.D. her in 2007), and Sophia Rabe-Hesketh, professor of Education (whose Ph.D., in theoretical physics, is from King’s College, London). The three were raided while conducting normal class business, Hayden in historic Stephens Hall, Rabe-Hesketh in Tolman Hall (whose prizewinning architecture is now described on the School of Education’s website as “mid-20th century modernist,” dating back to “the Doo-Wop era”); Mendez had taken advantage of beautiful weather and convened her class on a lawn beside Mulford Hall, but there was no escape from the GSI Center Surprise Patrol, which braved bright sunshine and a light breeze to carry out its mission.

(The GSI mentoring awards are given by both the GSI Teaching and Resource Center, which is an academic unit of the Graduate Division, and a faculty group, the Advisory Committee for GSI Affairs, which is a subcommittee of the Academic Senate’s Graduate Council. The Advisory Committee selects the recipients from those nominated by current and former GSIs.)