Katheleen R. Guzman, the Earl Sneed Centennial Professor of Law and MAPCO/Williams Presidential Professor of Law is this year’s winner of the Medal for Excellence in Teaching at a Research University. “The energy she gives to students is significant and radiates in all that she does,” said College of Law Dean Joseph Harroz, Jr. A law professor for more than two decades, Guzman said she sets high expectations for her students, with the ultimate goal of teaching students how to teach themselves. “I demand daily written briefs and lower grades for inadequate preparation,” Guzman said. “Students commend this approach, noting that my belief in them helps them believe in themselves.” OU College of Law Dean Emeritus Andrew M. Coats said Guzman “makes a potentially tedious topic – wills and trusts – interesting by injecting humor and creativity into her lectures and assignments. She relates to students by making the law real to them.” For example, in one class Guzman explained how mortgages worked by giving students a copy of her own mortgage. Former student Cullen D. Sweeney, now a law clerk for a Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals judge, said Guzman is his “hero” with a gift for making complex matters seem accessible and daunting issues seem surmountable. He said the first time he began to feel like a lawyer was in Professor Guzman’s property class when he and a classmate were assigned to argue dueling sides of a difficult case in front of the class. “The larger lessons from that experience remain: rigorous preparation; immersion in detail without losing sight of larger issues; and finally, confidence in one’s ability to understand, analyze, argue and ultimately persuade. It’s the stuff that lawyers are made of.”
Guzman has been a capstone adviser to more than 100 students and serves as faculty adviser for several student organizations. She has received more than 15 teaching awards at OU, including being named outstanding law professor by the student body.
The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence awards these medals annually to outstanding Oklahoma teachers, one each at the elementary, secondary, community college/regional university and research university levels. In addition, the foundation presents a Medal for Excellence to an exceptional administrator from the elementary or secondary level. President David Boren established the Foundation to recognize and encourage academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools.