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Law School faculty members honored for teaching excellence

May 14, 2021

Six members of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School have received teaching awards for the 2020–21 academic year. Maggie Blackhawk is awarded the Harvey Levin Memorial teaching award; Elizabeth Pollman is awarded the LLM teaching award; R. Polk Wagner is awarded the A. Leo Levin Award for Excellence in an Introductory Course; Jill E. Fisch is awarded the Robert A. Gorman Award for Excellence in Teaching; Xun Zeng GL’03 L’07 is awarded the Adjunct Teaching Award; and Cynthia Dahl receives the Experiential Teaching Award.

Six members of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School have received teaching awards for the 2020–21 academic year. Maggie Blackhawk is awarded the Harvey Levin Memorial teaching award; Elizabeth Pollman is awarded the LLM teaching award; R. Polk Wagner is awarded the A. Leo Levin Award for Excellence in an Introductory Course; Jill E. Fisch is awarded the Robert A. Gorman Award for Excellence in Teaching; Xun Zeng GL’03 L’07 is awarded the Adjunct Teaching Award; and Cynthia Dahl receives the Experiential Teaching Award.

“In this past year, our teaching faculty have demonstrated remarkable creativity and flexibility in delivering their courses effectively despite unusually challenging conditions, whether in-person or remote,” stated Dean Ted Ruger and Associate Deans Reed Shuldiner and Beth Simmons. “We are extremely grateful for this collective institutional work, and also are pleased to recognize some specific outstanding teaching successes in announcing the 2020-2021 teaching awards.”

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Maggie Blackhawk is awarded the Harvey Levin Memorial teaching award, voted on by the JD class of 2021.

Maggie Blackhawk (Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe) researches and teaches in the fields of constitutional law, federal Indian law, and legislation. Her recent projects examine the ways that American democracy can and should empower minorities, especially outside of traditional rights and courts-based frameworks.

What the students said:

  • “Professor Blackhawk stimulated interest and independent thought by posing hard questions and presenting in-depth analysis. She challenged us to think critically not only about the doctrine, but also bigger questions about legal analysis, rule of law, advocacy, institutions, federalism, etc… . In Federal Indian Law, every class I came away learning to think about legal questions and legal systems and my place in it in a new way.”
  • “Professor Blackhawk has put together an incredible course which in content and structure forces students not only to learn a high volume of complex legal doctrine but also to critically analyze the development of the doctrine from both theoretical and historical perspectives… . Because of Professor Blackhawk and her course, we will all be better lawyers, advocates, and human beings.”
  • “Professor Blackhawk did an excellent job stimulating my interest in the subject matter. I knew absolutely nothing about Federal Indian Law prior to this class, and very quickly became passionate about the topic. I found the course, especially with Professor Blackhawk’s teaching, deeply moving. She is brilliant and sharp, and I walked away from every class amazed by one factor or another.”

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Elizabeth Pollman is awarded the LLM teaching award, voted on by the LLM class of 2021.

Elizabeth Pollman, Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Institute for Law and Economics, is an expert on corporate law, governance, and rights. She teaches and writes on a wide variety of topics in business law, with a particular focus on corporate governance, purpose, and personhood, as well as startups, entrepreneurship, and law and technology. This year, she taught Corporations, Mergers & Acquisitions, and Corporate Governance.

What the students said:

  • “One of the best professors at Penn Law. Always made students feel like their contributions were valuable and made me super interested in M&A even if I don’t pursue it in the future. She is extremely clear when explaining even the most confusing of topics. Prof. Pollman is truly inspiring – would recommend that everyone take one of her classes.”
  • “Fantastic. Professor Pollman has an incredible mastery of the subject matter and an infectious enthusiasm for the course. She inspires students to engage fully with the course material.”
  • “I thought that Professor Pollman’s Corporations class was brilliantly executed. The effort put in to go the extra mile to reach out through the virtual realm to engage with students was very much appreciated.”

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Polk Wagner is awarded the A. Leo Levin Award for Excellence in an Introductory Course for his work teaching Contracts in person and Introduction to Intellectual Property, among several other courses, this year.

Professor R. Polk Wagner is the Michael A. Fitts Professor of Law. He focuses his research and teaching on intellectual property law and policy, with a special interest in patent law. This year, he taught Contracts, Patent Law, Introduction to Intellectual Property, Patent Law – Appellate Advocacy, the Law and Innovation Journal Seminar, and ML: Intro to Patent Law Online.

What the students said:

  • “Prof. Wagner has perfected his engagement model for modern / pandemic times.”
  • “Professor Wagner was fantastic in teaching us contracts. He actively encouraged us to grapple with the material and discuss our own opinions on the cases, as well as ‘think like lawyers’ in pretending we represented one of the parties.”
  • “Professor Wagner did a great job promoting different voices and perspectives in our classroom.”
  • “Prof. Wagner went above and beyond this semester. He established a dedicated Slack channel where he could be reached nearly 24/7. He was always available to chat with students and could be found providing practice sets or responding to student questions in the early hours of the morning. Prof. Wagner sent out a few surveys throughout the semester to solicit feedback on his teaching and class format. When students noted that his office hours were at a particularly bad time, he changed them to a better time. When students asked for a break halfway through class, he didn’t hesitate to provide one. During finals week, he had daily office hours and provided a review session.”

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Jill E. Fisch is awarded the Robert A. Gorman Award for Excellence in Teaching for her work teaching both Corporations and Civil Procedure in person this year.

Jill E. Fisch, the Saul A. Fox Distinguished Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Institute for Law and Economics, is an internationally known scholar whose work focuses on the intersection of business and law, including the role of regulation and litigation in addressing limitations in the disciplinary power of the capital markets. She taught Corporations and Civil Procedure this year.

What the students said:

  • “Prof. Fisch is an outstanding professor—the best I’ve had so far at Penn. Her ability to make connections across course materials—at the drop of a hat—is unparalleled. Coupled with a thorough knowledge of recent trends and developments in the field, this makes her uniquely able to address student questions with eyes to the doctrine and to practice. I’m much more interested in shareholder and M&A litigation after taking Corporations with Prof. Fisch.”
  • “Prof. Fisch made an intentional and successful effort at the beginning to impress upon us the reasons why civil procedure is important, and why it should matter to us regarding, especially regarding access to justice. Her lectures were always engaging, especially with the polls. Her ‘warm calls’ were inviting. She’s an extremely good pedagogue.”
  • “Professor Fisch did a wonderful job selecting course materials. I really appreciate her efforts to select interesting cases that addressed right to counsel, qualified immunity, racial profiling, police brutality, and discrimination. She always couched our discussions about minute procedure in the context of weighty and important issues.”

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Xun Zeng GL’03 L’07 is awarded the Adjunct Teaching Award for teaching a new Private Investment Funds course from Beijing.

In addition to teaching at Penn Carey Law, Xun Zeng is a fund formation partner of Cooley LLP in Beijing. Her practice is focused on the formation, structuring, and operation of a wide variety of investment funds, including venture capital funds, growth capital funds, private equity funds, and co-investment funds.

What the students said:

  • “Prof. Zeng is 10/10. She was incredible, knowledgeable, approachable, and engaging.”
  • “Professor Zeng is clearly very passionate about the material. She explained the concepts well, but also took it one step further to show how it was applicable in real life.”

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Cynthia Dahl receives the Experiential Teaching Award for her teaching and leadership of the Detkin IP and Technology Legal Clinic.

Cynthia Laury Dahl is a Practice Professor of Law and Director of the Detkin Intellectual Property and Technology Legal Clinic. She specializes in business applications of intellectual property and technology, and writes and speaks extensively throughout the country about teaching in this area.

What the students said:

  • “Prof. Dahl is incredible! She is a natural at keeping the class engaged and striking the right balance to keep things moving along. She is also understanding and supportive of all her students. She is a fantastic professor, and I feel fortunate to have learned from her when I did in my law school career.”
  • “Prof. Dahl is incredible. She knows the IP space well and is always up to date on new and unfolding news. She asks the right questions to help her students grow.”
  • “Prof. Dahl’s supervision is unparalleled. She was always accessible and supportive when I came to a difficult problem. She let me lead the way with my clients and decide what form I wanted my work to take. Her reviews were thorough and incredibly timely, even when we were up against a tough deadline. She helped me close gaps in my work and expand further upon topics that were not initially clear. I took her comments seriously and always tried to address them appropriately. Overall, the working relationship was incredible, and I am just so, so, so thankful.”