2015 Dean’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching

Caitlin McKinney – Teaching Assistant

Dr. Cait McKinney’s classroom is a supportive space for students to become creative and intellectual risk-takers. She fosters what she calls “intellectual empathy” where she builds her students’ critical skills by encouraging them to understand and apply perspectives other than their own.

McKinney won in the Teaching Assistant category while completing her PhD in Communication and Culture. She engages students by connecting their experiences to course content. One of her unique assignments asks students to narrate their use of Facebook, not as users, but from the perspective of an algorithm.

Colleagues in the Department of Communication Studies value her teaching methods, rating them as “highly effective.”

Shaped by her own teaching and learning experiences at our diverse university campus, Ms. McKinney continuously challenges her students to open their minds and think beyond their current realities to that of others. It is her hope that this challenge will establish their lifelong engagement with social justice.

Ms. McKinney extends her research expertise in digital culture and digital humanities to the classroom for undergraduates and graduates. Her use of modern technology, multimedia, social media and course management software is geared towards preparing students for the workplace. She says: “Though it is often tempting for instructors to fight the ubiquity of laptops, tablets and phones in class, I ask students to turn them into tools for research.”

In the words of her students: “Cait is a creative teacher and is constantly searching for innovative ways to engage students” and she is “one of the most approachable, thoughtful, inspirational and supportive teaching assistants.”