Top Cal Lutheran teaching honor awarded

Professor stresses learning through public service

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Helen Ahn Lim of Simi Valley received the 2022 President’s Award for Teaching Excellence during Honors Convocation.

Photo: Brian Stethem

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — May 3, 2022) A criminology and criminal justice professor committed to helping students learn by serving the community has received California Lutheran University’s highest teaching honor.

Helen Ahn Lim of Simi Valley received the 2022 President’s Award for Teaching Excellence during Honors Convocation on April 26. The award was created in 1995 to recognize professors who are held in high esteem by their peers, students and the rest of the university community.

“Her passion and resolute commitment to service learning has not only enhanced the lives of her students, but also the health and vitality of critical community agencies,” Cal Lutheran President Lori E. Varlotta said in presenting the award. 

Lim, chair of the Criminology and Criminal Justice Department, helps students develop service-learning projects that benefit community organizations. Her partners have included the Ventura County Rescue Mission and Ventura County Probation Agency. Lim’s students have conducted research and presented their findings to the organizations and at the university’s Festival of Scholars. As a former director of the university’s Center for Academic Service Learning, she helped other faculty members incorporate such experiential learning opportunities into their classes.

She has expertise in hate crimes and human trafficking. Lim has worked closely with Zoe International, an anti–child-trafficking organization, by sharing her criminological knowledge and even traveling to Thailand as an invited instructor for a police training seminar during her sabbatical. She also has invited trafficking victims and experts to her classes, organized events for Cal Lutheran and the broader community, and helped students intern with Zoe.

“She continually pushes students to see the real-world implications of what they are learning, and to envision how they can use their knowledge to improve their communities and better our criminal justice system as practitioners or as researchers,” a group of faculty members said in nominating Lim.

Lim’s colleagues also praised the way she has supported students and faculty and created teaching moments outside the classroom since arriving at Cal Lutheran in 2005. This was particularly evident in fall 2018 when a number of events challenged the Criminology and Criminal Justice department, including the death of recent alumnus Justin Meek during the Borderline shooting.

“As a professor, much of my time may include organizing the contents of my lecture and in careful and meticulous lesson-planning. However, I have come to realize and appreciate that some of our most important lessons are unscripted and messy, come in unwanted or unwelcome ways, and are even presented to us through very difficult challenges,” Lim said in accepting the award.