Michael Hawkins, Cal State San Bernardino lecturer of history, has been named the university’s 2019-20 Outstanding Lecturer.

Hawkins was surprised with the news at the start of a virtual meeting on June 5 with the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences as CSUSB President Tomás D. Morales and about 40 other administrators, previous award winners, faculty, staff and co-workers were on hand via Zoom screen to honor him.

“This is a very special occasion. As you can see, there’s a lot of faculty and staff and administrators who truly value and appreciate the work that you do every day with our students, and we’re to present the 2019-20 Outstanding Lecturer Award to you, Michael Hawkins,” Morales said. “You’re receiving this award based on the exceptional instruction, capacity to engage your students and the extremely positive feedback received from those you have taught and of course from your colleagues.”

Every year, the announcement is normally made during a surprise visit to the winner’s classroom or lab by the president and an entourage of university administrators, previous award winners along with faculty and staff to honor the professor. The announcement is made during class so students can see their professor being honored.

However, this year’s surprise announcement was done during a virtual meeting because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the university to temporarily suspend face-to-face classes and instead offer virtual instruction.

Provost Shari McMahan also praised Hawkins for his hard work.

 “Congratulations Dr. Hawkins! I couldn’t agree more with the president. The excellence of our lecturers who teach more than half of all Cal State San Bernardino classes is a critical part of our overall aim to be a model for transforming lives,” said Provost Shari McMahan. “Your demonstrated commitments, passion and knowledge cannot be overstated in the fulfillment of this vision. So we are deeply grateful for your dedication and service and, as noted, the importance role that you play educating our students about the past, it’s impact on the present and future influences.

Zoom surprise for Michael Hawkins

Rafik Mohamed, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, joked that the only way they could get Hawkins to attend a meeting was to ensure it was about teaching his students.  

“Your dedication to students was part of how we were able to kind of rope you into being here today, but also the evidence of how dedicated you are to students is why we’re here today,” said Mohamed. “Congratulations! It is well deserved and thanks for serving our students so well, not just in the college. You teach across the campus and I know they value your contributions.”

Hawkins, in thanking all those present for the honor, said he was pleasantly surprised and stunned at being announced the outstanding lecturer.

“Cal State San Bernardino does the best at recognizing lecturers and so to be chosen for this of all the different lecturers that work on campus and everyday do great things means a lot to me” he said. “I take it to heart. Being a lecturer, sometimes you feel like you’re toiling away in obscurity and serve a ghostly presence and so to get this recognition means a lot.” 

As the Outstanding Lecturer, Hawkins will receive a $1,000 faculty development grant, recognition at the College of Social & Behavioral Science’s Commencement ceremony and honored at the Faculty Recognition Luncheon.

According to a nomination letter to Morales from Kevin Grisham, co-chair of the 2019-20 University Awards Committee, associate professor and chair of CSUSB’s Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, to be nominated and win the Outstanding Lecturer Award among a brilliant and dedicated pool of educators is a testament to the excellence that Hawkins brings to each of his classes. 

“Hawkins has an exceptional teaching record as a lecturer in the Department of History,” Grisham wrote. “Lecturers serve as an instrumental part of the faculty at CSUSB and serve as exceptional role models and as extraordinary educators for our diverse student body.”

Hawkins began lecturing at CSUSB in spring 2010 and has taught several undergraduate courses including History of U.S. Civil War and Reconstruction, 1861-1877; The United States, 1917-1945; American Civilization; and United States History from 1877.

“It is very apparent that Dr. Hawkins is lighting the fire for better understanding the complex history of the United States every day at CSUSB,” Grisham wrote. “Through creating an environment that is engaging and fun, he is educating the next generation to be civically aware of the past and how it is impacting the present and will influence the future.”

Michael Hawkins on zoom
Michael Hawkins

Hawkins received numerous nominations from students that highlighted his engagement with them, which has “allowed him to bring history to life among a wide array of students.”

“He is a wonderful lecturer and never fails to make coming to class enjoyable,” one student wrote. “Even though I already ‘learned’ the history of our country in high school, I feel as if I learn something new each lecture,” one student wrote in their nomination.

In comments concerning Hawkins’ contribution to students’ education, one student said he “helped me understand history more than I’ve ever had before.” Another student said Hawkins inspired them to research historical events outside the classroom, while another said they were “able to understand the content like never before.”

“These comments, and a multitude of similar comments from students, illustrates how engaging and caring Dr. Hawkins is and how he has been able to bring to life the past and connect it to the present,” Grisham said. “He has done this not simply with majors from the Department of History but with majors from across the campus.”

Grisham noted that by educating the students about the history of the United States, Hawkins is providing them with instrumental skills and knowledge for them to be more civically engaged in their local, state and national communities.

“To be able to engage students in a class that all majors are required to take (U.S. History) in such a high level is even more evidence of why Dr. Hawkins has been recommended for this prestigious award that recognizes the great amount of work the lecturers do at CSUSB,” Grisham concluded.

Along with Grisham, the other 2019-20 University Awards Committee members are: Eugene Wong, professor of psychology; J. Chad Sweeney, associate professor of English; Kathie Pelletier, professor of management; and Jay Fiene, professor of Education Leadership & Technology and former dean of the College of Education.

Hawkins received his Ph.D. in United States History from the University of California, Los Angeles, his master’s degree in history from San Diego State University, and his bachelor’s degree in social sciences also from San Diego State.

In addition to teaching at CSUSB, Hawkins is a continuing lecturer in the Department of History at the University of California, Riverside and a lecturer in the Department of American Studies at Cal State Fullerton.