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May 20, 2008

2008 Senior Memoirs: Zakhar Berkovich

Zakhar Berkovich at the 2008 University at Albany-SUNY Undergraduate Commencement.

Zakhar Berkovich. (Photo by Mark Schmidt)

When one comes to college it is so important to find a person you can relate to, talk to, and ask advice of when your parents are away and the only means of communicating with them are via cell phone or e-mail.  Well, freshman year I was in search of such a professor.  Fortunately I was able to find one faculty member whom I am about to describe.

I have known Professor Harris for her entire career at the University at Albany.  During this period I have taken eight classes with her as my instructor, including my honors thesis.  As a result, I basically minored in Rachel Harris.

She is a dedicated member of the University community who invests her interest in not only providing exceptional education to students inside the classroom, but also provides her knowledge and experience outside of the classroom.  Her office doors are always open.  Professor Harris tackles all problems that students have, from helping them with an assignment, to giving advice about life.  She assisted many students with their resumes, cover letters for employment, study abroad, and scholarships.

In fact, yesterday, when I was writing this speech I counted the number of recommendation letters Professor Harris wrote for me.  It is 17.  Because of her letters of recommendation I was able to find a job, and receive several awards.

Professor Harris is a highly dedicated professional who knows how to motivate her students to strive for excellence.  Her classes are not boring lectures; they are rather engaging educational experiences.  Professor Harris understands the hardship of the students but she holds them to the highest standard.  Her evaluation methods are very unique.  She evaluates every student to their ability.  She is able to see which student is working his hardest to achieve a better grade, and who is just trying to get an easy B without putting any effort into class work. 

I had to work hard in her classroom.  It was not an easy ride.  I probably received every grade from a D- to A+ in her class.  When I received that D- she came up to me after class and told me that I should visit her during her office hours.  I went to her office and she put so much red ink on my paper, I thought it was bleeding.  Professor Harris taught me how to write a college essay and since then I have improved to the extent that during my senior year I received an A+. Like an excellence sticker or a star in the elementary school.  

Professor Harris has created 15 new Judaic Studies and Hebrew classes in the past three years. They are all different and cover a variety of subjects.  Every class is unique and interesting.  Professor Harris is a modern faculty member.  She is interested in using technology as a tool for education.  She is very supportive and initiates learning of literature and language through use of technology.

I can go on for hours about Professor Harris and our relationship as a student and teacher and as a mentee and mentor, but it will not be enough to express my gratitude and appreciation for all the time she gave me.  I am extremely honored to present Professor Harris with the Torch Award for this year.

I am extremely excited about today and especially tomorrow, because after tomorrow’s ceremony we will become colleagues and we are planning to publish an article in the Journal of Jewish Identity.

It is my great pleasure to present to you, Professor Harris.  Thank you for all that you have provided me with and given me.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Spring Commencement Video: Reaching Forward

2008 Senior Memoirs: Jennifer Roman

2008 Senior Memoirs: Nick Fahrenkopf

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