Jan Oster wins the Carla Musterd Award for Teaching
At the Institute’s Council meeting of last December the first Institute’s biannual prize for teaching was awarded. The award is named after Carla Musterd, a former, highly valued, member of staff, who was famous for her unflinching dedication to teaching standards and excellence.
Although this was the first time the Institute for History awarded this prize, it has a longer history. Up to now it had been in the hands of the Department of History, and had been awarded four times in the last eight years. But with the restructuring of the faculty and the move of staff and budgets from departments to institutes, the board of the institute and the department of history felt it was better to make all the institute’s staff members eligible for the prize. With this change a new procedure had to be designed.
To allow an equal chance for all our staff members we requested the student member of the Teaching Committees of all the various degree programmes our staff is involved in to put forward their favourite candidate with a short motivation.
The following colleagues were proposed:
1. Kim Beerden was nominated because of her versatility and her personal commitment to students, and her innovative approach in teaching, in particular the integration of social media in her teaching techniques.
2. Alanna O'Malley was commended for the interactive nature of her classes, the way she stimulates student participation by linking topics with current events and initiating vibrant debates, thus making complex theories understandable and relevant.
3. Jan Oster's nomination was based on the very interactive and open nature of his classes, which follow logical threads, and strike a perfect balance between the overwhelming amount of information in the textbook and the practical application of EU Law.
4. Jeff Fynn-Paul was put forward as a model of what a lecturer of International Studies should be, with an ability to combine different disciplines and a general versatility. His willingness to publicly addresses difficult issues like poor attendances, was particularly commended.
5. Soledad Valdivia Riviera was praised for the high quality of her lectures, and the open and approachable manner in which she teaches. She was further commended for her ability to motivate students.
Winner: Jan Oster
To come to a decision on who of these five fine candidates should actually be awarded the prize the Board looked at student evaluations and their track record. As can be expected the candidates did not differ too much in these respects. What finally clinched it was the wording of the nomination by the Teaching Committee of the Master in European Union Studies, which was so evocative the Board could not ignore it:
It is almost 17:15 and the EU Law lecture is about to begin yet instead of a silent classroom, the buzzing and voices of all students are invigorating. Everyone is already seated as is the case almost every time, and all are eagerly awaiting for the lecture on the Internal Market and Four Freedoms to begin. Some students have already diligently printed out all the Court of Justice of the EU’s cases for the class, others are discussing different types of Cassis drinks they tried the night before, while third are simply trying to figure out what the “indistinctly applicable rules” on the slides refer to. And when the class commences at exactly 17:15, Dr. Oster takes us to the world of the Law through different angles but always step by step, confidently but patiently.
Bringing together a mass of students with completely differing backgrounds – from history to economics – and exposing them to a precise but “hardcore” field, such as the Law, entails a certain amount of drama and potential problems. Dr. Oster deals with this confidently. His classes are always very interactive, open, follow logical threads, and strike a balance between the overwhelming amount of information in the textbook and the practical application of the measures and legal provisions, cases and approaches to EU Law.
The reason the room is always full goes even a step further. Every lecturer can provide the background of a subject, cover a subject adequately and be constructive; however, what we gain the most from Dr. Oster’s lectures is the fuel that is needed for our main task as students: generation of genuine curiosity and enthusiasm about the lecture material and for the subject. Every lecture given by Dr. Oster is engaging the audience, making the discussion more memorable and enjoyable for EU law-veterans and non-law veterans alike. His lectures involve humor, talent to present the Law in a fascinating way and even when we have a hard time, he does not give up on us, respects the challenges we face and is always open to help resolve these difficulties.
To some the Law may be a difficult, dry matter but to the 51 participants in Dr. Oster’s lecture, it is the intellectual fuel of the semester.
The board congratulates all the nominees but in particular Jan Oster for actually being awarded the Carla Musterd Award for Teaching.