Nezar AlSayyad
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Nezar AlSayyad - Distinguished Teacher

Nezar AlSayyad: Distingished Teaching Award Nomination
Information relevant to nomination criteria

[Much of this material comes from AlSayyad’s Statement of Activities, 2001-2004 and 2004-2007 and peer and student letters from the Professor step VI case]

1. Departmental Context: While the department has a good teaching record with some star teachers, there has not been a DTA winner from Architecture in the last 20 years.

2. Range of Teaching: Professor AlSayyad has been teaching in the department for the past 20 years. He has taught and continues to teach at all levels and in the department’s different programs. He teaches large undergraduate lecture courses (Arch 111/ CP 111), graduate seminars (Arch 219/ CP 231), design studios (Arch 201), advanced doctoral methods courses (Arch 271 and 281), and core courses (Arch 209D and 202). In addition to his teaching in the area of Environmental Design in Developing Countries, which he established in Berkeley, AlSayyad also teaches courses in the areas of History, Social and Cultural Processes, and Architectural and Urban Design as well as in all all the different programs offered by the department – the B.A., the M.Arch (with its 3 options), the M.S., and the Ph.D, and beyond in the college MCP and MUD.

3. Influence on Students: Because of his range of teaching he has indeed influenced a very large number of students and several generations of graduate students. Many of his Ph.D. students now occupy teaching positions in some of the most distinguished universities in the U.S. and internationally. In this regard, he has also supervised a considerable number of doctoral students, chaired and sat on 50 Ph.D. dissertations in the last 10 years, as well as chaired and sat on 80 M.Arch theses also in the last 10 years. He has also cemented Berkeley relationship with several universities in the Middle East. ( In Cairo University alone, 6 faculty have done their Ph.D at Berkeley under AlSayyad supervision in the last fifteen years.)

4. Instructional Performance: While the DTA requires submission only for the last 8 semesters in residence, what is significant about Professor AlSayyad’s teaching achievement is that his teaching scores are among the highest in the department (if not the highest) and that this pattern has been consistent over the past 10 years. His OTE average is 6.55 and a CC average of 6.48 for this entire time period, making him one of the highest if not the highest in the department. Attached is a table that summarizes these scores since 1998.

5. Course and Curriculum Innovation: AlSayyad’s courses are also meticulous and innovative, as his course outlines demonstrate. He is an outstanding lecturer whose delivery is often praised by the students in teaching evaluations. Students love his story-telling, comment on his engagement with the world, and on bringing his own research and professional experience into the classroom. One class assignment that students seem to particularly enjoy is a simulation game that AlSayyad creates and implements as the midterm exercise in his large undergraduate class (Arch 111/ CP 111). Problems assigned in the past few years include games on the housing situation in Baghdad, reconstruction after Hurricane Katrina, and reconstruction after the Asian tsunami.

In the area of course innovation, AlSayyad also plays a major role in the department. In the mid 1990s, and in response to a NAAB accreditation review, AlSayyad helped create our innovative M.Arch thesis preparation and thesis studio sequence (Arch 209/ 202). He successfully taught this sequence for its first six years. Similarly, and also in the mid 1990s, AlSayyad helped streamline our methods requirements at the Ph.D. level, introducing the new course, Arch 281 (Methods of Inquiry in Architectural Research), which he has successfully taught ten times since its introduction. The course has become a model that other North American Ph.D. programs now follow.

One of his most recent innovations was the Nanocity studio, an advanced urban design studio, which AlSayyad envisioned and co-taught. The course was designed as an interdisciplinary studio involving students from three different departments and five different programs: architecture, landscape architecture, and planning and the M.Arch, M.C.P., M.L.A., M.U.D., and Ph.D. programs. Instead of the traditional studio format, which is taught by 1-2 faculty with 15 students, this one included an intensive lecture series and reviews with participation by many faculty from the College of Environmental Design. The studio revolved around a real client and the ambitious project of designing a new, sustainable city in India. AlSayyad planned a 10-day trip to the site in India for 16 students and 6 faculty where they met with government officials, planners, and residents of the site. The trip was made possible by the resources that AlSayyad secured from the client, Sabeer Bhatia (the co-founder of Hotmail). This project now continues as a professional engagement, which has employed, over the summer, 12 of our graduate students and 6 of our undergraduate students. The team has been invited to India to present their work to the Chief Minister of Haryana in the fall.

6. Collaborative Teaching: Collaborative teaching is an important aspect of instruction in our department. AlSayyad however has add an interesting and successful dimension to it. He not only teaching course with colleagues in his areas of expertise, he also collaborates with faculty from other areas. He has very successfully co-taught various courses with faculty in the areas of History ( Paul Groth and Greig Crysler), Design Theories and Methods ( Jean-Pierre Protzen), Building Science (Gail Brager) and Design ( Richard Ferneau and Susan Ubellodhe)

7. Relationship between Research and Teaching: What is also very unique about AlSayyad is that he marries his research/ scholarship to his teaching. His lecture courses and seminars, particularly in his courses dealing with the areas of housing, urbanization, vernacular and traditional architecture, frequently engage books that he has written or that he is writing at the time. In the late 1980s, and as a junior member of the faculty, he co-founded, at UC Berkeley, the International Association for the Study of Traditional Environments (IASTE), a scholarly society of 1000 members from more than 50 countries. The association holds biennial meetings and publishes Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review, one of the most respected peer-reviewed journals in the field of vernacular and traditional architecture. The association, which is still based at UC Berkeley, has employed a very large number of our graduate students, many of whom worked as conference coordinators, program coordinators, or publications coordinators, while pursuing their graduate work at UC Berkeley. Many of these individuals now occupy distinguished teaching positions in North American universities, attesting to the opportunity that AlSayyad created for them. AlSayyad has also worked with graduate students from many UC Berkeley departments, encouraging them and training them to publish in the journal. Throughout its 20 years, there isn’t a single issue of the journal that did not have a paper published by a UC Berkeley graduate student, a testament to his influence on education at UC Berkeley.

Similarly, Professor AlSayyad has taught very successful seminars dealing with issues ranging from colonial urbanism to hybrid urbanism to the politics of tradition. These seminars have yielded major publications in the field (often edited volumes). AlSayyad’s successful formula was to take some of the best papers produced in a seminar, invite a few distinguished senior scholars to contribute additional papers, and to then produce a volume on a particular subject matter. This has allowed many of our graduate students to publish their work in seminal books and to be in conversation with senior scholars. These books have included Forms of Dominance (1992), Consuming Tradition, Manufacturing Heritage (2000), Hybrid Urbanism (2001), The End of Tradition? (2004). Each included at least three chapters by AlSayyad advisees, many of whom are now major scholars.

8. Administrative Duties: It is surprising that Professor AlSayyad carries this full (often extra) teaching and advising load given his multiple administrative roles and responsibilities. He serves as Chair of Graduate Advisors for our M.S./ Ph.D. program in Architecture. He is also Associate Dean of International Programs for the College of Environmental Design. He is the founding director of the International Association for the Study of Traditional Environments, a research unit based in the college. Outside CED, AlSayyad also chairs UC Berkeley’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, a National Resource Center funded by the U.S. Department of Education and supported through major endowments that AlSayyad has secured over the years. Within UC Berkeley’s International & Area Studies Teaching Program, AlSayyad chairs the rapidly expanding undergraduate major in Middle Eastern Studies where he no doubt has additional responsibilities.

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