Kansas State University


Graduate School

Graduate Student Wins Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools Excellence in Teaching Award—Sixth Time K-State Nominee Selected

A Kansas State University master’s student and graduate teaching assistant in English is a regional award winner for excelling in teaching and mentoring.

Catherine Williams, a Beloit, Kansas resident, has received the 2018 Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools Excellence in Teaching Award for the master’s level. Williams is the sixth Kansas State University graduate student to win the award. It is also the third year in a row that one of the university’s graduate student nominees has earned the honor.

The award recognizes graduate students who excel in classroom teaching and promote awareness of graduate teaching contributions to the university’s scholarship and its teaching mission. Williams received a $750 honorarium shared her teaching philosophy at the 74th annual meeting of the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools, April 4-6, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

An award winner is selected at both the master’s and doctoral levels, with each member institution of the association able to nominate one student in each category.

“I feel extremely humbled to be the recipient of this award,” Williams said. “I’m surrounded by extremely intelligent and dedicated GTAs in the English department, so it feels surreal to be receiving recognition for my teaching. I’m so happy to represent Kansas State’s GTAs and shine a light on the hard work they perform each day, both inside the classroom and within our community.”

With a primary research focus on cultural studies and children’s literature, Williams is interested in how adult anxieties over issues such as poverty, mental illness, and abuse are translated into texts for children.

Williams has taught four sections of English 100 and worked at the university’s Writing Center for three semesters.

“My teaching philosophy emphasizes the inherent value each student brings to the classroom,” Williams said. “As an instructor, I believe that students make the most growth when they can see the results of their hard work. To that end, I take a strengths-based approach in my classroom and continually look for opportunities to highlight how each student has developed their writing skills.”

“The English department is lucky to have Catherine ‘Cat’ Williams as one of our graduate teaching assistants,” said Karin Westman, associate professor and department head. “All of our GTAs work extremely hard to assist students with all aspects of their writing — from initial ideas to drafts to final revisions. What sets Cat apart is her dual success in the expository writing classroom and in the Writing Center, where she serves as one of our tutors. Cat’s rapport with a wide range of students both in the traditional classroom and in the Writing Center and her talent in lesson planning make her worthy of additional recognition. Finally, Cat’s dedication to her work as a scholar and a teacher — and her excellence in both areas — recommended her for this award.”

“One of the best-kept secrets at K-State is how phenomenal our English department is,” Williams said. “Not only are our teachers extremely knowledgeable about their respective fields, but they are also incredible role models for learning effective pedagogy.”

Williams is working on completing her master’s degree this spring. In the fall, she will begin a PhD program in English at the University of Connecticut. Williams intends to pursue a faculty career in academia.

Williams earned her bachelor’s degree from Kansas Wesleyan University in Salina.

View Williams’ teaching in action video to learn more about her teaching philosophy.

Since 2011, the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools has been recognizing graduate students’ teaching accomplishments with its Excellence in Teaching Award. The association is a regional affiliate of the Council of Graduate Schools. Member colleges and universities are accredited institutions of higher education in the central U.S. that offer graduate programs leading to master’s, specialist, and doctorate degrees.