By: Elana Luban  | 

Daniel Kimmel Named Professor of the Year

Professor Daniel Kimmel was announced as this year’s recipient of the Professor of the Year Award on May 3rd.

While there are countless indicators of a YU professor’s success among students, the Silber Award, also known as the “Professor of the Year” Award, is probably a pretty accurate gauge when it comes to student response to a YU instructor.

This award, endowed by YC alumnus and SSSB Board secretary William Silber, Ph.D., and his wife, grants three annual gifts of $1,800 each to YC, SCW, and SSSB faculty members chosen by students for special recognition.

As YC Dean Fred Sugarman explains, “All full time faculty are in the first survey which is sent to our U8/U7 students – basically seniors only.  The survey is sent by Institutional Research to the Seniors and is live for about a week; each student votes for three candidates from the initial list, and I receive the results.” Then the top three faculty member choices are sent to the seniors, this time each senior getting only one vote only (not three), this portion of the survey being live for about a week as well.”

“The IR tabulates [the results],” Sugarman continued, “and sends to me with the winner.”

When asked about what sets this particular award apart, Dean Sugarman explained, “the award is very meaningful since it’s the students indicating which professor they most enjoy and respect.  Professor Kimmel is a fantastic teacher and young scholar – his classes are usually the first to fill, and students gain a great deal from his scholarly approach and human touch.”

Kimmel first began teaching at YU as an “all but dissertation” visiting instructor from the University of Chicago stepping in to replace Silke Aisenbrey, the Chair of YU’s Department of Sociology. Kimmel was supposed to teach a course titled “Human Behavior and Social Institutions,” and as he puts it, “I asked them what that means and they said ‘we don't know’! One of the great things about YU is that the Sociology Department is pretty small – it's very brave and very flexible.” Kimmel explains, “I said to myself, ‘Well, violence is a human behavior and schools are a human institution…” – and that's how the idea for one his most fascinating and innovative classes, Violence in Schools and Education, was born.

Kimmel expressed that one of his favorite aspects of YU is the experimental, almost adventurous, attitude when it comes to new courses: “If there's a crazy idea, students are willing to give it a try. Somewhere else they might say ‘Interrogating Masculinities? What the heck is that?’ but at YU I've had students that are adventurous and willing to come along for the ride.”

And what did the students say? Well, one would assume that the award speaks for itself, but it seemed as though anyone who has taken his classes, when asked, can't imagine passing up an opportunity to rave about Professor Kimmel. Moshe Zippel, a junior at Syms who took Kimmel’s “Interrogating Masculinities” reveals that though the course had plenty of potential for misunderstandings and for awkward moments, Kimmel couldn't have made the discussion more comfortable and relatable: “If anything was confusing, he would just give real-life examples, or bring up funny, embarrassing scenarios from his own experience.”

Talia Korn, who discovered her appreciation for sociology through Kimmel’s Intro to Sociology course, says, “I found myself constantly using his ideas in so many other classes – English, Political Science, Theories of Human Development….”

Isaac Snyder, a senior on his way to medical school for whom Kimmel wrote a letter of recommendation, said, “He knows every kid’s name...If someone doesn't do well on an assignment, it hurts him more than than it hurts the student.”

Gedalia Penner, a music major, describes, “He's extremely engaging, hysterical, and full of life -- he never sits down once while teaching.” The overall consensus among the student body seems to be, simply put, “whatever you're taking, take Kimmel!”