Professor Ruha Benjamin Receives 2017 President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching

Ruha Benjamin, a faculty member since 2014, is a sociologist whose work examines the connections between science, technology, medicine, race and gender. She is known for her interdisciplinary scholarship and her dedication to mentoring students.

A colleague described Benjamin’s wide-ranging impact: “[Her] commitment to excellence in teaching has touched undergraduates, graduate students and the broader community. She is truly a remarkable teacher, and having her as a colleague inspires me to push a little deeper, give a little more, when I step into the classroom.”

Benjamin is highly regarded for her commitment to advising graduate students across departments. “Professor Benjamin has served as a mentor for graduate students within the African American studies certificate program and beyond,” noted a colleague. She was also the faculty convener of the African American studies graduate colloquium of 2015-16.

Undergraduate students cite Benjamin’s courses as formative in their education and personal development. One student commented, “Professor Benjamin’s enthusiasm, investment of time and energy, and thoughtful coordination of lectures and class activities made for a learning experience that not only inculcated important sociological principles, but also empowered me to use them in my daily life.”

Among her popular courses are “Black to the Future: Science, Fiction and Society” and “Race is Socially Constructed: Now What?” Students have described her lectures as “amazing,” “inspiring” and “nothing short of transformative.”

One student noted Benjamin’s lasting influence, “To this day, I still refer to her syllabi from the two classes I’ve taken with her.”

Another undergraduate said, “Professor Benjamin became a role model to me because of her intelligence, dedication to her students, interdisciplinary study, emphasis on community engagement, and encouragement to her students to begin imagining a better future for our country and the world.”

A committee of faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, and academic administrators selected the winners from nominations by students, faculty colleagues and alumni.

The awards were established in 1991 through a gift by Princeton alumni Lloyd Cotsen of the Class of 1950 and John Sherrerd of the Class of 1952 to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching by Princeton faculty members. Each winner receives a cash prize of $5,000, and their departments each receive $3,000 for the purchase of new books.