L-R: Professors Kate Withy, Louise Hipwell, and Jennifer Woolard. (Photo by Darcy Palder/Georgetown College)
January 29, 2019 — Georgetown College Dean Chris Celenza presented three faculty members with the Dean’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching at the Faculty Convocation ceremony on Monday.
Professor Kate Withy of the Department of Philosophy, Professor Louise Hipwell of the Department of Italian, and Professor Jennifer Woolard of the Department of Psychology were all honored.
Less than a decade into her career at Georgetown, Professor Kate Withy has already become a pillar of the Department of Philosophy. The New Zealand native and expert on the work of Martin Heidegger is wildly popular with her students, drawing waitlists for her classes on a regular basis.
“The class session, like the course, had a compelling narrative arc, which was both beautiful and also grounding for students, who knew the forest would not be lost for the trees,” wrote one colleague who observed one of Withy’s classes, as quoted in the award citation.
Withy’s popularity comes despite — or perhaps because of — a reputation for demanding grading and complex subject material. Her methods pay off, as many of her students have gone on to top-tier graduate programs in philosophy.
“She is dedicated to the craft of teaching. So we can see why, despite as a general rule giving the lowest grades in the Department, students try so hard to get into Kate’s courses,” her award citation reads.
Professor Louise Hipwell has been an innovative educator and tireless advocate for students ever since joining the Department of Italian faculty in 2007. Her approach to language learning has included flexible intensive course schedules, online learning, collaborations with Italian universities, and internship opportunities.
“Professor Hipwell’s effective communication method offers an authentic full-immersion setting where even beginners can become proficient and develop a love for all things Italian,” her award citation reads.
Hipwell’s classroom presence, writing talent, and efforts to transform the Italian program have garnered her glowing praise from both students and other faculty members. One student called her their “kindest and most knowledgeable professor,” while her colleagues noted that “she is equally admirable for the scholarship of teaching that she practices, as the author of articles on innovative pedagogy, as a published translator, and as a conference organizer.”
A specialist in developmental and community psychology, Woolard has excelled in a wide range of courses at the introductory, intermediate, and advanced levels. She is known for implementing ambitious learning projects — a mock murder trial and an immersive simulation of a discriminatory society, to name just two — while earnestly incorporating student feedback to improve her methods year after year. According to her award citation, this feedback is largely positive: “Best class ever” and “favorite class” are common refrains.
Woolard’s dedication to pedagogic innovation is not limited to her own classroom. She has spearheaded the implementation of evidence-based teaching practices across the department, and her stewardship of the graduate program has been met with acclaim. She is also a respected leader in the Georgetown community, serving on the Honor Council, the Student Well Being group, and more.
“A caring and passionate teacher, Professor Woolard embodies cura personalis inside and outside the classroom, leaving an indelible mark on the undergraduate and graduate student experience at Georgetown,” her award citation reads.
— Patrick Curran