Anna Branch and Claudio Moreira Win 2015 Outstanding Teaching Awards

Friday, March 20, 2015

This year’s Social and Behavioral Sciences Outstanding Teacher Award goes to Enobong Hannah Branch, associate professor of sociology, and Claudio Moreira, associate professor of communication.

These inspirational teachers have been heralded for their innovative pedagogical approaches, exceptional performance, and written comments, including rousing endorsements by students and colleagues. Both have made a positive impact on the academic growth of students, as well as on their sense of living in the world.

Enobong Hannah (Anna) Branch received her B.S. (magna cum laude) from Howard University in 2002. In 2007, she received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University at Albany-SUNY. She has been an Associate Professor at UMass Amherst since 2013. 

Her research focus lies primarily in the study of Blacks contemporarily and historically. Dr. Branch is interested in the heterogeneity of the black experience created by the intersection of gender, nationality, citizenship and economic class. Her book Opportunity Denied: Limiting Black Women to Devalued Work provides an overview of the historical evolution of Black women's work and the social-economic structures that have located them in particular and devalued places in the U.S. labor market. Her interest in computer science/information technology arose due to the similarities with Black women's historical exclusion from desirable jobs. A set of racist and deeply sexist assumptions existed as to why they were not competent to enter fields and their marginalization prevented them from challenging the stereotypes. Her current research investigates the ways in which race and gender influence the entry and persistence of women and minorities in information technology.

"This award means the world because I really love to teach," says Branch. "Often I teach subject matter that challenges students personally, such as the myth of meritocracy (pulling yourself up by your bootstraps) in relation to persistent poverty or by placing hate crime within the broader social and political context of intergroup antagonism (e.g. prejudice/racism, ethnic violence, and homophobia, etc.). But I try to create a classroom environment that nurtures dialogue and encourages diverse opinions. In the midst of these exchanges it is clear that students are growing, learning, and reconsidering things they had always taken for granted. That is the goal of my teaching, I want students to think critically about the world in which they live and their role in it."

Claudio Moreira received his B.S. in 1999 from the Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Brazil. In 2007, he received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and has been an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication since Fall 2008.

Moreira writes Performance Autoethnographies looking at words, knowledge, concepts, and actions, which expose differences and also shape, marked bodies into the world. From a present space created by a deep immersion in the past, he attempts to challenge the white man's ideology, trying to create a transformative action, a performative space, whose goal is to bring more justice and dignity to more people. His work can be found at Studies in Symbolic Interaction, International Review of Qualitative Research, Qualitative Inquiry, and Cultural Studies, Critical Methodologies. His book, co-authored with Marcelo Diversi, Betweener Talk: Decolonizing Knowledge Production, Pedagogy, and Praxis (Left Coast Press, 2009), is a postcolonial and polyvocal construction of a scholarship committed to combat racism, sexism, and classism in modern America society.

Congratulations to both recipients of the Outstanding Teacher Award!