UCLA School of Law Professor Sharon Dolovich has been selected to receive the UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award for 2020-21, with an additional citation for Distinction in Teaching at the Graduate Level.
With only six professors across the UCLA campus so honored, the Distinguished Teaching Award is the university’s highest recognition of excellence in the classroom. The UCLA Academic Senate has presented the award since 1961 “to increase awareness of UCLA’s leadership in teaching and public service by honoring individuals who bring respect and admiration to teaching, at UCLA.” In addition to the honor for members of the university’s tenure-track faculty, awards also go to leading lecturers and teaching assistants.
Dolovich is the 32nd member of the law school community to earn this accolade.
She joined UCLA Law in 2000 and is the faculty director of the Prison Law and Policy Program. She teaches courses in and is an authority on criminal law, the constitutionality of prisons and punishment, and other post-conviction issues. Dolovich co-edited and received wide acclaim for the 2017 book The New Criminal Justice Thinking (NYU Press), which built on her work as a scholar who is known for closely collaborating with and mentoring her students.
“It is an honor to receive this award in a school known for its outstanding teaching,” Dolovich says. “For me, teaching is a two-way street. I learn from my students every day.”
This dedication has grown during the past year, as COVID-19 had a particularly harsh impact in the nation’s prisons and jails. Dolovich founded the UCLA Law COVID-19 Behind Bars Data Project and assembled a team of more than 160 people, including many student and alumni volunteers, to compile and analyze information. Since March 2020, the project has regularly made national news, and Dolovich has shared bylines with her collaborators in the Journal of the American Medical Association and other leading publications.
But the pandemic has also brought a shift to remote education, and Dolovich has felt its impact.
“I’ve been especially inspired by the way my students have weathered this past year,” she says. “I miss seeing them in person and can’t wait to get back into the classroom. But everyone has remained present and engaged and wanting to learn. There have been days when the conversation has been so rich I almost forget we’re on Zoom. When I look back on this year of teaching, that’s what I’ll remember most: the way the students really showed up and worked to create an environment where true learning was possible in spite of all they were dealing with every day.”
In supporting Dolovich’s nomination for the award, numerous students, alumni, and colleagues lauded her work as “a builder” – as much in the expanding academic field of prison law as in the successful careers and lives of her students and former students.
Dolovich earned her B.A. from Queen’s University in Canada, Ph.D. from Cambridge University, and J.D. from Harvard Law School.