Sandra R. Levitsky has been selected to receive this year's Golden Apple Award in recognition of her engaging teaching style and passion for helping students succeed.

The Golden Apple Award annually honors one professor for outstanding teaching, and it is the only faculty award at U-M given by students. The award committee selects a winner based on student nominations, of which there were almost 700 this year.

Levitsky, associate professor of sociology, LSA, was surprised with the award during a meeting with students at the LSA Building on Thursday.

"I was trained as a lawyer before I went to graduate school, and every once in a while (my mother) gives me a jab about not practicing law because she really wanted a lawyer in the family," Levitsky said.

"And all I can say is I did it for the teaching," she continued. "I absolutely love teaching undergraduates and it's nice to have it be so well-received. So thank you."

After earning her law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School, Levitsky received her Master of Science degree and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Along with teaching classes at U-M, Levitsky is the director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Sociology.

Karin Martin, professor of sociology and chair of the department, said Levitsky is the "heart and soul" of the undergraduate program and has worked hard to make sure her classes and their department are inclusive for a wide range of students, particularly first-generation college students.

"She's a really passionate teacher," Martin said. "She has a lot of respect for students and thinks students deserve the best education that this university can give them. And I think she really cares about students as people — individuals with goals and aspirations of their own as well as whatever it is she wants to teach them."

In nominations submitted to the committee, students said Levitsky "effortlessly connects topics in sociology to issues going on in the present day" and speaks with clarity and passion.

Golden Apple Award recipients are charged each year with giving a lecture as if it's their last. The award was originally inspired by teacher Rabbi Eliezer ben Hurkanos, who taught others to "get your life in order one day before you die."

Levitsky's lecture is scheduled for 7 p.m. April 9 at Rackham Auditorium.

Sociology major and junior Kia Schwert said she took Levitsky's Law and Society course and found she was an approachable and down-to-earth professor. She added Levitsky would be willing to work with students when issues came up or students had concerns about course material. "It was all about how she can make you succeed in the class," she said.

"I just want to say having you as a professor at my first semester here at the university as a first-generation college student, and you making yourself apparent that you can be a resource here and help make a place like this accessible to me has inspired me and keeps me going," Schwert told Levitsky.