Kate Knutson, 2020 Carlson Award Winner, Political Science Department Posted on July 14th, 2021 by

Kate Knutson

Kate Knutson

I’m honored to present the winner of the 2020 Edgar M. Carlson Award for Distinguished Teaching. This is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a Gustavus faculty member; the winner is selected from nominations submitted by students, faculty, and staff.

One great thing about being a liberal arts college prof is how many committees you get to serve on. No, really; it means that when I read a Carlson nomination letter, I find myself saying “absolutely! I observed them doing that very thing when I was on the personnel committee doing their tenure review.” Or “I’ve seen them manifest that quality in their work on the Nobel Conference committee.” Or “yes, even on the parking committee, they managed to do that.” (Okay, I made that last one up. We don’t have a parking committee anymore; the meetings were too acrimonious.)

In the case of this year’s winner, I’ve had countless opportunities to witness the way in which a spirit of teaching and learning pervades their approach to everything, even committee work. When I read a student’s observation that this prof “made a class with a boring description fun on a day to day basis,” I thought “ditto for committee meetings.” I also thought back to observing their class for tenure review; I’d immediately gone back to my office to think about how I could incorporate their creative ideas into my own classes.

Many letters spoke of this faculty member’s “full commitment and energy,” noting that “classes are taught with an enthusiasm, and thoughtful insight that inspires majors. However, what is even more telling is the numerous non‐majors that speak so highly about their experience in this prof’s classes,” who “asks a lot of us. …But it’s so worth it because we come out of the semester with the ability to hold an intellectual conversation about the topic.”

Another student praised this prof for “developing research habits that are useful and relevant to other classes.” That made me think about the class project this prof spontaneously designed during a Nobel Conference meeting one day; the project gave students valuable experience doing interviews, and also created a collection of videos for the conference.

One poignant letter dated spring of 2021 noted that “for me, a first year in the middle of a pandemic, their kind words and support have made the beginning of my college experience better than I could have imagined.” At the other end of their Gustavus career, another student noted that this prof’s “exceptional mentoring ability assisted me in the law school application process,” and “helped me realize an even better plan”: spending a gap year doing a political internship.

Political Science professor Kate Knutson has been a member of the Gustavus faculty since 2011. She earned her PhD and MA in political science from the University of Washington, and her BA from Linfield College. She teaches a variety of courses in United States government and politics, including that “boringly described” class Analyzing Politics and the perennial favorite, US Public Policy. An active scholar, she is the author of INTERFAITH ADVOCACY: THE ROLE OF REIGIOUS COALITIONS IN THE POLITICAL PROCESS.

Congratulations Kate Knutson, winner of the 2020 Carlson Award for Distinguished Teaching!

Presented by Lisa Heldke
Professor of Philosophy
2004 Recipient of the Edgar M. Carlson Award


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