Kathleen Lawrence, an associate professor of communication studies at SUNY Cortland, will receive a Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching during the 2009 Undergraduate Commencement on Saturday, May 16, in the Park Center.
She is among five SUNY Cortland faculty and staff members to be honored this year with a prestigious State University of New York Chancellor's Award for Excellence. A second faculty member, JoEllen Bailey, associate professor of physical education, will also be recognized with a Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching.
The Chancellor's Award process begins at each of the 64 SUNY campuses with nominations submitted by the respective presidents. The SUNY Committee on Awards then reviews the nominations and makes its recommendations.
Lawrence, of Homer, N.Y., who joined the Communication Studies Department in 1992, becomes the 51st SUNY Cortland faculty member to receive the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Lawrence was promoted to associate professor in 1996. In addition to her work on the Barbie doll culture, Lawrence has given conference presentations on a variety of subjects in popular culture, including Martha Stewart, Hillary Clinton, the marketing of breastfeeding, the depiction of Disney heroines, eating disorders and the Cosmo girl. Her accomplishments as a teacher, advisor and mentor are considered to be exceptional by her colleagues.
"I am deeply committed to the proposition that the essential quality of a professor's contribution to the institution is in her ability to motivate students to learn," Lawrence writes about her teaching philosophy. "That is, to provide in a thoughtful and creative way the basic knowledge that they can only obtain direct interaction with someone who can act as a trained arbiter of information. They should be taught how to analyze, evaluate and build on the information that they receive so they can make their own worthwhile contributions to society as individuals."
"Dr. Lawrence is able to inspire students to look beyond the obvious and encourages everyone in the class to speak up and express their ideas and share their opinions," one colleague wrote. "Equally important, her students know that Dr. Lawrence expects them to back up their ideas and opinions with facts, logic, good sense and courtesy."
Her classroom teaching methods, which use a number of active-learning techniques, have won her praise from students and faculty members. Her approach is to promote critical thinking skills, inferential reading, group-building exercises and creativity assignments. She encourages teamwork by teaching students cohesive strategies they practice in and out of class.
Lawrence received the highly competitive National Advising Award in 1998 and in 2000 and was selected for SUNY Cortland's prestigious Rozanne M. Brooks Dedicated Teacher's Award, reserved for outstanding educators both in and outside the classroom.
She has earned accolades for her support of students, including an Outstanding Faculty Member Award from the Inter-Greek Honors Council, a Faculty Advisor Award from the Cortland College Student Association, and a Phi Kappa Phi Award for outstanding service to students. Twice she was presented the Student Government Association's Outstanding Teacher Award.
"She is definitely not afraid to think outside of the box and to make her students do the same," the student wrote. "I often feel enlightened when I leave her class because I know I have used both sides of my brain!"
"Teaching students about intercultural communication can be a difficult task, but her assignments made students think what it would be like to stand in someone's else's shoes," a student wrote.
Lawrence has presented papers in a wide variety of venues, including the International Conference on Arts and Humanities, the Washington Institute for Learning Communities, the Students in Transition National Conference and the National Communication Association's Annual Convention. Her expertise on the Barbie doll in American culture has resulted in her earning guest spots in national and international print and broadcast media, including The New York Times, the New York Daily News, the Associated Press, French Public Television, PBS, NPR and CNN.'
A native of Rochester, N.Y., Lawrence received a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Communication from Boston College and a master of arts and doctorate degrees in speech communication from Indiana University. Her doctoral emphasis was on analysis and criticism of historical public address.