Student Introduction

Remarks by Homa Hassan, former student of John Zubizarreta,
2010 Outstanding Baccalaureate Colleges U.S. Professor of the Year

The man you are about to hear speak is no ordinary man. And I’m not referring to his last name that seems impossible to pronounce. Dr. John Zubizarreta, or “Dr. Z” as we fondly call him at Columbia College, is unlike anyone I have ever met before. Now, you might expect me to rave on about his unique and thought-provoking teaching style, which I hear is exceptional. But the truth is that I have never had a class with Dr. Z.

As a student in Columbia College’s Honors Program, which Dr. Z directs, we were all his students, and had much to learn from him.   In fact, I first got to know Dr. Z when he took our incoming freshman class rafting on the river. After a quite terrifying journey, we came to a cliff, and Dr. Z encouraged us to strap on a life jacket and jump off. And that’s when I knew it – this man was different. “Really? You want me to jump off of the cliff? I don’t think so.” Though some took on the challenge, I was too afraid.

Throughout my years in college, my peers and I found ourselves on many difficult cliffs. Dr. Z was always there to challenge and push us a little further to the edge, urging us to open up and try new things. His encouragement, while working in his office as an administrative assistant, took me from the confines of my comfort zone to the rigor of challenging academics and personal growth. Thanks to Dr. Z, when it came down to it, I was ready to take any plunge.

Dr. Z never lies to us, saying that a particular task or project will be easy or even that it will be worth it. Yet, he instills enough faith in us so we believe it is worth taking the plunge. He believes in his students more than they believe in themselves, but he stands by until each of us is able to reach our potential, helping with original research, presentations at national and regional conferences, and community initiatives. He became a mentor to me and a springboard for my ideas and dreams. His commitment is astounding. Being the director of faculty development, president of the National Collegiate Honors Council and a regular traveler abroad never stands in the way of his coming to student events. No matter how long he’s been up working, he is always there, making everyone laugh and giving sound advice.

One memory that is particularly unforgettable to me was the day I came back to school after my dad had died. Dr. Z dropped his work, took out his lunch from the refrigerator and told me, “Homa, you gotta eat.”

Not an ordinary man, Dr. Z. No, this man is extraordinary. I am honored beyond words, and privileged beyond comprehension, to have had Dr. Z in my corner as my cheerleader, on the other side of the fence as my constructive critic, but most importantly, as a lifelong friend.

Congratulations, Dr. Z, you truly deserve this honor.


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