Vivian-Lee Nyitray Named the Patricia McSweeny McCauley Chair in Teaching Excellence

The chair of the Department of Religious Studies, Nyitray is a scholar of Asian religions — particularly Chinese religions, Confucian-Taoist interaction — and women and religion

Vivian-Lee Nyitray

Vivian-Lee Nyitray, chair of the Department of Religious Studies

Vivian-Lee Nyitray, chair of the Department of Religious Studies, has been named the Patricia McSweeny McCauley Chair in Teaching Excellence in the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. Nyitray, who joined the UCR faculty in 1991, is a scholar of Asian religions — particularly Chinese religions, Confucian-Taoist interaction — and women and religion.

The endowed chair was created in 1993 to encourage research on and excellence in teaching in CHASS. It was combined with the CHASS Distinguished Teaching Award for senior faculty in 2007. The one-year appointment includes a stipend, and the recipients present an annual lecture on teaching and offer an undergraduate seminar.

In a nominating letter, Theda Shapiro, professor emerita of comparative literature and languages, called Nyitray “an exceptionally brilliant teacher” who is known for “rigorous and enthusiastic classroom performance,” “patient and thorough mentoring” of students, her contributions to the Honors Program and various on- and off-campus programs, and for her guest lectures and assistance to colleagues.

“Although students remark again and again on her calm and friendly delivery, her flexibility with unforeseen problems, her patience with them and respect for their opinions, it is also clear from student comments that Vivian is no pushover,” Shapiro wrote. “Many students comment on her hefty reading assignments, on their difficulty in internalizing the volume of material presented in a course such as ‘Asian Religions,’ the broad and deep scope of her courses, and on her insistence that they delve well beneath the surface of things to attain a deep and nuanced understanding of the (often quite difficult) material of her courses.”

Her teaching evaluations and letters from former students testify to her “passion” — a word used by many students — for her course subjects, Shapiro added, and “for teaching, to her approachable manner, patience, and good humor, to the rigor of her courses and the hefty reading assignments in some of them, and to the many ways in which she develops her students’ intellects and enriches their lives.”

 

 

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