Members of Kenyon's board recognize great teaching each year with the Trustee Teaching Excellence Awards, but it's often the students who make the nominations. Who better than students and former students to sing the praises of the 2010 winners, Professor of Psychology Sarah Murnen and Associate Professor of English Sarah Heidt '97?
Murnen, who joined the Kenyon faculty in 1988, won the award for professors who have been teaching at the College for ten or more years. Murnen is nationally known for her research on the relationship between gender roles and both sexual violence and eating disorders.
Heidt won the award for a faculty member who has been teaching at Kenyon for fewer than ten years. A specialist in nineteenth-century literature, she received a 2008 Whiting Foundation grant in recognition of her outstanding teaching. Heidt received an additional honor this spring, earning tenure and thus promotion to associate professor.
On Sarah Heidt:
Professor Sarah Heidt taught the first English class I took at Kenyon. The burden of coaching me out of my freshman ignorance fell onto her shoulders. And she did it: she gently corrected me when I referred to Virginia Woolf by first name only, discouraged Disney references mid-paragraph in an essay on George Eliot, and consoled me after I consistently misspelled the protagonist's name in my first-ever Kenyon paper. So not only is Professor Heidt a teacher, mentor, and role model for all aspiring literature majors; she is also a miracle-worker because she does great things. After a semester of her "Proper Ladies" class, I walked away feeling like a real scholar. Her passion for English and her commitment to her students are inspiring, and I could not have wished for a better introduction to the study of literature. Besides, who else could make Wollstonecraft so painless?
—Christopher Philpot '12
With a passion for all things contemplative, academic, and even a little nerdy, Professor Heidt is quite simply delightful. Instilling a sense of fascination with a period of literature so often met with condescension, she has taught me to pursue even the smallest of questions to their end. The ease with which she dives in and out of language—the definitions and etymologies of words—never fails to incite a newfound sense of awe, not only for the author of a work of literature, but for the scholar whose task it is to unfold it.
—Elizabeth Chabot '11
During the first semester of my senior year, I met with Professor Heidt because I had become paralyzed with fear about determining what kind of opportunities I would find most fulfilling upon my graduation. After listening to my anxieties centered on my uncertain future, Professor Heidt told me to try to ignore any fears and then instructed me to do a writing exercise she had found useful when considering her own accomplishments and abilities.
"Write down the qualities of a hero you most admire," she said, "and then write down a list of attributes you yourself possess. I'm certain you'll be surprised to see how many traits overlap." As I contemplated figures that I could possibly write about, I realized that the person I most admired as my hero was Professor Heidt.
—Mollie Hart '10
Professor Murnen represents what I find so unique and incomparable about Kenyon. She was not only an outstanding professor, but a personal mentor and close friend. Our conversations were my favorite part of the week. She encouraged me to pursue new interests, sent me in new directions, and cultivated how I think about the world. What she has taught me, and the friendship that we have developed, will last far beyond my years at Kenyon.
—Caely Melford '10
On Sarah Murnen:
Sarah Murnen embodies everything I hoped for when I applied to Kenyon. I wanted a learning environment that was rigorous and challenging while still being laid-back and accepting. Professor Murnen combines astounding intellectual abilities with a caring and relaxed teaching style that I had never before experienced. She challenged us to be better students by fostering our own individual goals. Today I am lucky enough to find myself on the exact career path I want to be on, and I can safely say that if I had not had Professor Murnen as a teacher and as a friend I would not be in the place I am.
—Brian Don '08
I can honestly say that Sarah's "Psychology of Women" class changed my life. It was through her engaging discussions, thoughtfully planned assignments, and her guidance that I have discovered what every student hopes to discover at Kenyon—something I'm passionate about, and something I'm excited to pursue as a career. Sarah has taken a genuine interest in my well-being, even after graduation. We have kept in touch, and she has helped me develop a research project, present my thesis at a conference, and prepare for the daunting task of applying to graduate school.
—Rita Seabrook '09
Dr. Sarah Murnen is a profound mentor, as well as educator, and over the last few years I have gotten to know her as my professor, research advisor, and friend. As a graduate student now, I can say with accuracy that her feminist approach in psychology has guided my own academic and career pursuits, and has also influenced the broader attitudes that I have developed about my own way of living.
—Lovey Walker '09