Bethany Berger Wins 2024 UConn Law Teaching Award

The Perry Zirkel ’76 Distinguished Teaching Award was established in 2016 through the generosity of Perry Zirkel, who graduated from the UConn School of Law in 1976.

UConn Law Professor Bethany Berger lectures on property law in Chase Hall on the law school campus on April 19, 2017. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

The UConn Law Class of 2024 has chosen Professor Bethany Berger to receive the Perry Zirkel ’76 Distinguished Teaching Award.

Berger is a widely read scholar of Property Law and Legal History and one of the leading federal Indian Law scholars in the country. She joined the UConn Law faculty in 2006 and in 2016 was named the Wallace Stevens Professor of Law. She teaches Property, American Indian Law, Property and Race in U.S. History, Conflict of Laws, and Tribal Justice Systems.

“Professor Bethany Berger is a tireless advocate for all students, particularly those in the Evening Division, and her commitment to inclusivity and support for student initiatives is unparalleled,” her nomination reads. “Professor Berger has a unique ability to challenge high performers while making her courses accessible to all, setting high expectations and providing the necessary tools to meet them.”

The nomination also praised Berger’s balance in serving as both a “cheerleader” and a “supportive critic,” while guiding students’ legal scholarship.

“I’m very pleased to see the graduating class award this well-deserved honor to Professor Berger,” Dean Eboni S. Nelson said. “She is an exceptional scholar and a talented teacher, who inspires her students. The law school has benefited greatly from her many contributions.”

Berger serves as faculty advisor to the Connecticut Public Interest Law Journal, the Native American Law Student Association, and this year’s Connecticut Law Review Symposium.

“I’m thrilled to get this award,” Berger said. “UConn is where I taught my very first law school class, and the students here have taught me so much. I’m very glad that I have taught them something as well.”

The teaching award was established in 2016 through the generosity of Perry Zirkel, who graduated from UConn School of Law in 1976. He became a professor of education and law at Lehigh University and served as dean of the university’s College of Education. The UConn Neag School of Education also honors a faculty member each year with the Dr. Perry A. Zirkel Distinguished Teaching Award. The Neag School will announce its 2023 award recipient in May.

Alumni and current students are invited to nominate faculty members for the award and a committee of four graduating students chose five finalists. The entire graduating class is invited to vote to choose the winner, who is presented with the award at commencement.

Past winners are Professors Leslie Levin in 2023, Mary Beattie in 2022, Julia Simon-Kerr in 2021, Jessica Rubin in 2020, Alexandra Lahav in 2019, Paul Chill in 2018, Richard Pomp in 2017 and Jeremy McClane in 2016.