Prof. Ulrike Malmendier Receives Top UC Berkeley Teaching Award

Ulrike MalmendierUlrike Malmendier, the Edward J. and Mollie Arnold professor of finance at the Haas School of Business and a UC Berkeley professor of economics, is one of five professors to receive the 2015 Distinguished Teaching Award.

It is the highest teaching honor UC Berkeley bestows.

The awards, announced this week by Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, follow a rigorous selection process that begins with nomination by the department chair or dean of the professor’s school.

Then a selection committee of the Academic Senate narrows down the nominations, receives recommendations from students, and visits the nominees’ classrooms.

“It’s incredible news that I am being honored with this award,” said Malmendier, who specializes in behavioral economics. “I am very touched by what the students said about their experience in my class.”

Malmendier is a member of the Haas Finance Group as well as the UC Berkeley Department of Economics, and teaches corporate finance in the MBA and PhD programs. Her body of research explores everything from the impact overconfidence has on CEOs when they are making economic decisions to how macroeconomic experiences affect risk-taking.

Considered one of the rising academic stars in her field, Malmendier was honored in 2013 with the prestigious Fisher Black Prize from the American Finance Association, presented to the top financial academic under the age of 40.

“Ulrike embodies the spirit of this award for all of the independent, rigorous thinking, enthusiasm, and energy she brings to the classroom,” says Dean Rich Lyons, a Haas finance professor who won the Berkeley Distinguished Teaching Award in 1998. “She has broken new ground with her innovative research and her students have reaped the benefit of her economic insights.”

In teaching evaluations, Malmendier has received accolades. In 2014 student reviews of her corporate finance class, she was described as an enthusiastic and engaging lecturer and received praise for explaining difficult concepts “clearly, with memorable examples.”

“I was shocked by the care with which Ulrike planned and designed every single one of her classes, employing several learning methods to make sure that every single topic was assimilated in the easiest way by her students,” one student wrote. “Even when this aim required her to spend hours in the preparation of business cases, of investment games, or the collection of specialized and up-to-date business materials, she was eager to do whatever would help her students grasp as much as possible from every single class.”

Malmendier says she was drawn to teaching at Berkeley for its openness to modern, non-traditional ideas, and research questions. She adds that she loves the diversity of the students she teaches.

“From the highly motivated, intellectually curious, and diverse group of undergraduates, to the intellectually top-notch PhD students, to the evening MBAs I am teaching, who never fail to impress me with their devotion and hard work–attending my lectures from 6 to 9:30 p.m., after a long day of work,” she says. “They are all really incredible!”

Economics was not Malmendier’s first calling. Born and raised in Germany, Malmendier received a PhD in law at the University of Bonn in 2000 and is an expert in Roman law. After earning a PhD in business economics at Harvard University in 2002, she shifted her academic focus, which she shares today with her husband, Berkeley economics Professor Stefano DellaVigna. The couple have collaborated on several research projects together.

Before joining Berkeley as an assistant professor of economics in 2006, Malmendier taught at Stanford. Through her academic career, she has visited and taught at her alma mater, the University of Bonn, Princeton University, and the University of Chicago.
Malmendier is the twelfth professor from the Haas School to receive the Berkeley Distinguished Teaching Award. In addition to Dean Lyons, others have included Prof. Sara Beckman in 2001, former Dean Earl Cheit in 1989, former Dean Laura Tyson in 1982, and former Associate Dean Andrew Shogan in 1979. Marketing Prof. Teck Ho received the top teaching award in 2010.

The other Berkeley Distinguished Teaching Award Winners this year are Kathleen Donegan in English, Daniel Feldman in Molecular and Cell Biology, Francine Masiello in comparative Literature/Spanish and Portuguese, and Lev Michael in Linguistics.

– By Seung Y. Lee