October 06, 2021 • By Brian Nguyen
Max Chao was awarded the 2021 Lecturer of the Year Award during the UCI Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation award ceremony. This is the second time that he has been honored with this title, which makes it the first time in UCI history that a lecturer has won the award twice.
Chao always knew that he enjoyed teaching. In his early days as a CPA, he was very involved with Junior Achievement and taught junior high and elementary school students about business and finance. Then, after returning to school and establishing his own law practice, Chao filled a lecturing position at the Merage School. 17 years later, Chao now teaches multiple classes on accounting, tax and business law.
For Chao, teaching at The Merage School is more than just a job; he strives to teach in a way that entertains students and fosters lifelong connections. He deeply enjoys seeing the look on students’ faces when they not only learn the material but can apply it to their lives.
When describing his experience teaching, he said: “I often feel like I’m the lucky one because I’ve been given the opportunity to help them along on that journey, and, frankly, I wouldn’t trade away even a minute of it.”
The move to online learning made it harder for Professor Chao to get to know his students as well as before, so he aimed for more online interactions. Chao tries his best to provide as many opportunities as possible for students to come in and form the connections that used to be formed in person.
“That’s what I miss right now,” Chao said as he described the difficulty of online teaching. “I don’t get to see the students in person and I don’t get to have those small conversations in office hours.”
William Wu Business Administration ’21, who nominated Professor Chao for the honor of Lecturer of the Year, said:
“I honestly felt that Professor Chao was the best lecturer that I ever had at UC Irvine. Whether in person or online via Zoom, Professor Chao brings the same level of passion and dedication to his students and genuinely wants to help them succeed. He is happy to answer our questions and get to know us better, both inside and outside the classroom. He isn't afraid to challenge us with difficult questions because he prepares us well and believes in us.”
When asked about how he felt about winning Lecturer of the Year for the second time, Chao stated that he felt disbelief and shock, and that he was “proud of The Merage School.” He added: “There are a lot of really good instructors at The Merage School that toil without a lot of recognition that I think are very worthy and very deserving of this award as well.”