I began my teaching career designing and facilitating professional workshops for people in a wide-variety of organizational settings, from manufacturing plants to academic institutions. Through these applied learning experiences I came to value the importance of hands-on learning and the power of connecting process (how we teach) with content (what we learn). I also learned to appreciate a variety of different learning styles and experiences. I have taken these lessons with me in my academic teaching. I work hard to connect what I am teaching with real world examples and to model what I teach through class design and execution. I often talk with students about why I have organized a lesson or class a particular way so that they can see how process works (or doesn’t) with a particular topic. I believe that students become more independent and empowered if they can see how specific classes are structured and can also see how theoretical material is translated into real world application. I also work hard to offer material in a variety of ways to meet different learning needs and to appreciate the variety of life experiences that students bring to my classes. Since I have recently taught classes with age ranges from eighteen to fifty and with students from three or four different countries, I am more convinced than ever that I need to appreciate these differences and incorporate them positively in the work I do.
Recently I have built upon both my commitment to empowerment and my belief in the importance of real world connections by challenging how I think teaching needs to take place within a college. More and more I am working to take learning outside of the traditional classroom and bring it into the larger community. As the co-founder, with Professor Tim Barretto, and chairperson of the Community Leadership Program, I now teach classes that lend themselves to community-engagement. Instead of talking with students about how a particular theory or skill might work within a community, I work with them to structure a project with a community organization so that they can experience themselves how this concept might translate in the real world. The more I challenge myself to break down my traditional ideas about college education, the more powerful I realize this engaged approach is for student learning. It creates a bridge for students to see how what they’re studying is all around them. It also helps reinforce for them the importance of education in giving them the tools to understand this. I believe that this integration of application with theory is both powerful and life-transforming for many students. Their comments and evaluations often mention this.
The success of our Community Leadership students after they leave our program is one of the most concrete examples of my teaching effectiveness. We now have past students and graduates who are working around the country and world. They, and those who hire them, repeatedly report that their coursework in the Community Leadership Program uniquely prepared them for their jobs and for the challenges they face. I am thrilled that students stay in touch with me to report what they’re doing and that they so often acknowledge the lasting impact of my work, and others, on their personal and professional development.
Kate's Teaching Specialties:
My primary teaching responsibilities at the Thompson School have evolved over the time I’ve been here. I began my work here teaching social science classes to meet the general education requirement. These included courses in interpersonal communication, group process, and social/environmental issues. For the past eight years, I have expanded the focus of this work into the Community Leadership Program where I teach classes that focus on community organizing and leadership, nonprofit management, and civic involvement and supervise the teaching of all of our other classes. All of this work reflects the interest that continues to motivate all of my work: how do we as individuals and as community members create sustainable, mutually productive, life-affirming relationships and communities. I see this question as the most crucial one of our time and every course I teach examines it from a different perspective.
In CSL 401, Introduction to Community Service and Leadership, for example, we look at our interpersonal relationships and our group process as we organize ourselves to work with the larger community in a class service project. In CSL 403, Organizing and Supervising Volunteers, we consider what ideal workplaces might be like and identify how each of us can contribute to their creations. In CSL 404, Managing Change and Conflict in Communities, students broaden their perspectives and examine how individuals and groups can work together to appreciate different perspectives and create positive community. In all of the classes I teach I try to use the design of the class (process) to illustrate how the material (content) can be experienced and understood. I want all of us in the class to grapple with these real issues of respect, conflict resolution, group organization, as we study them.
I find the questions and issues related to effective interpersonal relationships and respectful community-building both fascinating and compelling. For me, the opportunity to explore them with students in an openly-structured, applied way is tremendously exciting because, quite simply, we ARE the issues. What we do and say in class not only explores a topic, it mirrors it. If we discuss freedom of speech issues within a community, for example, we are not simply talking theory. We are, through our behavior with each other, creating a place where free speech is defined, encouraged, structured or discouraged. When we look at the topic of conflict, it is with us. How can we learn from this?
Kate's Interests and Hobbies:
In addition to working with others to make our communities more just and livable, I love spending time with my family, organic gardening, kayaking, bicycling, reading, and learning new things.
Kate's Advice for First Year Students:
You can do it! Keep trying! Take risks! Get involved!