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Family studies and human services, English GTAs selected for university's Graduate Student Teaching Excellence awards

Monday, Nov. 20, 2017


MANHATTAN — Two Kansas State University graduate students are recipients of the Graduate Student Council Award for Graduate Student Teaching Excellence.

Sponsored by the Graduate Student Council, this award recognizes graduate teaching assistants who have excelled in classroom teaching and serves to promote awareness of the important contributions graduate students make to the scholarship of the university. The recipients will represent the university as the doctoral and master's nominees for the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools, or MAGS, Excellence in Teaching Award.

Since the MAGS Excellence in Teaching Award was established in 2011, Kansas State University has had five winners, the most winners from any university.

The master's graduate teaching assistant award winner is Catherine Williams, master's student in English Beloit. Her adviser is Karin Westman, department head and associate professor of English. The doctoral graduate teaching assistant award winner is Sarah Kuborn, doctoral student in family studies and human services, Middlebury,Indiana. Her adviser is Melinda Markham, associate professor of family studies and human services.

"As a first-generation college student myself, I can vividly trace how having excellent teachers changed my life," Williams said. "Beyond teaching the curriculum, being an effective teacher means being available for your students, and treating them with compassion and autonomy. When teachers make a sincere effort to understand a student through their classwork, homework and writing, it can have a transformative effect on their future. By interacting with engaged and effective educators, students begin to believe in their own potential and the power of their ideas."

"Students tend to go to college to develop a deeper knowledge of the field in which they want to obtain a job,” Kuborn said. "Teaching the content and skills to help the students achieve these goals is important for their future. To be an effective teacher means helping your students retain the information and apply it so they will be able to use the knowledge and skills in their work and sometimes even in their personal lives. It is important to me that we have a workforce who can and will work with empathy, compassion, critical thinking and an openness to never stop learning."

A master's student and a doctoral student are selected for the Graduate Student Council Award for Student Teaching Excellence each year. Each award recipient receives a $500 scholarship, and his or her name and department are engraved on a perpetual plaque to be displayed in the student's department until the next award is given.

"Sarah and Catherine are outstanding examples of the quality of teaching and mentoring that our graduate teachings assistants, or GTAs, provide K-State undergraduates," said Carol Shanklin, dean of the Graduate School. "Our GTAs contribute to enhancing the undergraduate experience while gaining value experiences that will increase their competitiveness for future positions. I am honored that they will be representing our GTAs as K-State's nominees in the MAGS competition."

"My teaching philosophy is centered on a strengths-based mindset," Williams said. "That means I hold a sincere regard for each student’s knowledge and writing ability and highlight all the ways in which they develop their writing practices over the semester. My mission to empower my students goes beyond developing their writing skills — it is also deeply connected to understanding concepts of community."

"My teaching philosophy is grounded in feminist pedagogy," Kuborn said. "To assist my students in engaging in the learning process, it is essential to foster a safe and open learning environment and to thoughtfully engage my students. I disclose information about myself in the course to help create a safe learning environment for my students. I also recognize that each person in the classroom has an important voice and I provide the opportunity for my students to share their own experiences throughout the course. While I am the facilitator of the class, each person has a significant role in the learning process."

The MAGS Excellence in Teaching awards were created to recognize the importance of excellence in teaching and mentoring as a component of graduate education and the preparation of graduate students for future service as college and university faculty. Kuborn and Williams will compete for a $750 honorarium that will be presented at the 74th annual MAGS meeting, April 4-6, 2018, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. One master's student and one doctoral student are selected for the MAGS award.

The Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools is a regional affiliate of the Council of Graduate Schools. The association's member colleges and universities are accredited institutions of higher education in the central U.S. that offer graduate programs leading to masters, specialist and doctorate degrees.


Carol Shanklin


Graduate School


Download the following photo.

Catherine Williams

Catherine Williams, master's student in English, is the winner of the Kansas State University Graduate Student Council Award for Teaching Excellence at the master's level.

Download the following photo. 

Sarah Kuborn

Sarah Kuborn, doctoral student in family studies and human services, is the winner of the Kansas State University Graduate Student Council Award for Teaching Excellence at the doctorate level.

Written by

Kelsey Peterson

At a glance

Two Kansas State University graduate teaching assistants have been recognized for teaching excellence.