The University Record, October 1, 2001

John C. Mitani—Amoco Undergraduate Teaching Award

Mitani (Photo by Martin Vloet, U-M Photo Services)
John C. Mitani is a distinguished anthropologist, specializing in the fields of primate behavior and animal vocal communication. Highly regarded by students and colleagues for his scholarship, he also is an excellent teacher who demonstrates genuine concern and interest in students’ academic progress and lives.

Professor Mitani, a faculty member since 1990, has done extensive field work in Africa and Southeast Asia. Using his findings to whet student interest in anthropology and in science more generally, he engages students with carefully planned and presented lectures filled with photographs, audio recordings, humorous anecdotes, extensive study materials and lecture outlines on a course Web page. He presents a complex topic like primate social behavior as a framework upon which undergraduates can build, teaching them to approach facts and theories with a critical mind.

By encouraging questions and remembering students’ names and details about his conversations with them, Professor Mitani makes large lecture classes feel like small discussion groups. Always seeking to improve his own teaching methods, Professor Mitani refines his notes, presentations and class projects based on invited feedback.

In addition to voluntarily accepting a heavier-than-normal teaching load, Professor Mitani developed and teaches a popular first-year seminar. With his teaching and mentoring through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program and the Work-study Program, Professor Mitani has inspired countless students to focus on anthropology and primatology as undergraduates and, in many cases, to pursue advanced degrees in the field.

Professor Mitani has served on the Department of Anthropology Executive Committee and other departmental and University committees. He also is a consulting editor for the American Journal of Primatology and a member of the editorial board of the International Journal of Primatology and of the scientific advisory board of the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

Professor Mitani has been recognized with five Excellence in Education Awards from LS&A and the Arts, as well as the University’s Henry Russel Award and Faculty Recognition Award, and the National Science Foundation Presidential Faculty Fellowship.

In recognition of his exemplary teaching record and tenacious efforts to encourage students to think critically, as well as his contributions to primatology, the University of Michigan bestows upon John C. Mitani its Amoco Undergraduate Teaching Award.