Santa Monica College (SMC) political science professor Dr. Christine Schultz is one of only four to be named winners of the statewide 2008 Hayward Award for Excellence in Education.

She is known for her deep love of teaching and her success in growing and diversifying SMC’s honors transfer program, according to a college source.

This is the first time in almost 20 years that an SMC professor has won the award, which is considered the highest honor for California community college faculty.

In 1989, SMC biology professor Jack Fry won the award, which is sponsored by the Academic Senate of California Community Colleges.

“I’m excited,” said Schultz, who also wins a $1,250 cash prize. “I never cared about this kind of thing, but it is nice when you get recognized.”

Schultz, 56, of Pacific Palisades, has taught at SMC since 1984 and has been chair of the Philosophy and Social Science Department since 2004.

A specialist in the effects of the mass media on presidential politics, she also taught from 1979 to 1997 at UCLA, where she earned her doctorate.

She has twice been named SMC Alpha Gamma Sigma Outstanding Professor of the Year and twice named University of California Los Angeles Professor of the Year.

Colleagues who know Schultz aren’t surprised by her honors.

“Dr. Schultz is an exemplar for all faculty,” said SMC Academic Senate president Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, also a political science professor. “She is one of the brightest, most committed professors at SMC, always placing her students first.”

Although colleagues praise Schultz for her intellect and academic credentials — she is the author of three college textbooks on American government and politics — she is best known for her quiet passion in the classroom, her deep love of teaching and her success in growing and diversifying SMC’s honors transfer program, they say.

“The happiest moments of each of my days are those spent in the classroom,” Schultz said. “With my students I learn, laugh, embark on uncharted seas and push the boundaries of knowledge. My love affair with the classroom is so consuming that I have never opted to take a sabbatical leave and I have accumulated 238 days of unused sick leave.”

Although demanding of her students, Schultz has chalked up one of the highest student retention rates at the college, with more than 90 percent of her students finishing her courses and more than 75 percent receiving As or Bs.

“I am not an easy grader,” she said. “Rather, I have developed a complex system of working individually with each of my students, tailoring my assignments to their particular interests and talents.

“In a 16-week semester, I offer more than 42 assignments from which students pick and choose,” she said. “It is not uncommon for me to be meeting individually with students the week of finals trying to provide them additional opportunities to express themselves and what they have learned. My students thrive in this environment of choice.”

From 1986 to 2002, Schultz was the faculty coordinator of SMC’s Scholars Program, an honors program whose students are essentially guaranteed admission into such schools as UCLA as long as they follow a prescribed curriculum and maintain the required grade-point average. During her tenure, the program grew from approximately 30 students to more than 800.

“More importantly, the program was transformed from one that served a homogenous population of students to one respected across the state for its diversity in teaching faculty and student population,” she said.

Aside from teaching, running a department and writing, Schultz has been active on and off campus.

Among other positionss, she has been an SMC academic senator since 1994 and a member of the collegewide District Planning and Advisory Council since 2005. She served as faculty advisor to the Scholars Club for two decades.

She is also a member of the American Political Science Association and the Sierra Club.

With her specialty in mass media and presidential politics, Schultz admits she is reveling in one of the most dramatic and exciting presidential races in recent American history.

“The 2008 presidential campaign is exciting this young generation of first-time voters,” Schultz said. “This moment in history presents an opportunity for this nation to invite them in and encourage and foster their voice in politics.

“They bring with them a deep commitment to peace, global citizenship and ecological literacy. The young often speak with the purest voice and it is a great gift that as educators we have the opportunity to learn from them and ride their wave of enthusiasm to a better tomorrow.”

The Hayward Award — named for former California Community Colleges chancellor Gerald C. Hayward — is given each year to four instructors from four different regions in the state.

The other winners of the 2008 award are physical education professor Travis Parker of Cosumnes River College in Sacramento, English professor Jonathan Brennan of Mission Col- lege in Santa Clara, and psychology professor Joyce Bishop of Golden West College in Huntington Beach.