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English Prof Wins Teaching Award

  • © Steve Hambuchen

When Rachel Cole, associate professor of English, was an undergraduate, she was assigned to write an essay about honor in one of Shakespeare’s plays. She worked feverishly on the paper, only to be told on the due date that the topic was no longer relevant; her professor had revisited the play and realized it had very little to do with honor.

“I was furious,” remembers Cole. “As an undergrad, I assumed my professors had things figured out. What I came to realize is that new things strike you every year. You keep revisiting, changing, and hopefully improving your own best readings.”

This perspective, which Cole considers central to her teaching philosophy, has led her to the Arnold L. and Lois S. Graves Award in recognition of outstanding teaching. The award, which is administered by Pomona College and the American Council of Learned Societies, is given biennially to young professors teaching at western liberal arts colleges.

Cole believes that excellent teaching is an exercise in generosity and openness. “What I try to make explicit to my students is that I’m doing the same thing they are,” she says. “Students at Lewis & Clark come here to think—many are bold and imaginative, and ready to meet me halfway.”

Cole will use the $8,000 award to support the research required to complete her book, Personal Effects: Alternative Models of Personhood in 19th-Century American Literature.

Cole’s accomplishment is the latest in a string of Graves award successes by Lewis & Clark faculty: Joel Martinez, assistant professor of philosophy, in 2010; Karen Gross, assistant professor of English, in 2008; David Campion, Pamplin Associate Professor of History, in 2006; Rebecca Copenhaver, associate professor of philosophy, in 2004; Nora Beck, Rogers Professor of Music, in 2000; and Alan Cole, professor of religious studies, in 1998.

—by Erica Terpening-Romeo CAS ’14

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