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College of Liberal Arts
University of Mississippi

Three Receive College of Liberal Arts Teaching Honors

Teacher of Year, Instructor of Year and Cora Lee Graham Teacher of Freshmen awards

By EDWIN SMITH | May 9, 2015

Recipients of the 2015 College of Liberal Arts Teaching Awards: Outstanding Teacher of Year: Kathryn McKee, Cora Lee Graham Outstanding Teacher of Freshmen: Hilary Becker, Outstanding Instructor of Year: Karen Forgette | Photo by Kevin Bain/UM Communications

Recipients of the 2015 College of Liberal Arts Teaching Awards (from left): Cora Lee Graham Outstanding Teacher of Freshmen: Hilary Becker, Outstanding Teacher of Year: Kathryn McKee, Outstanding Instructor of Year: Karen Forgette | Photo by Kevin Bain/UM Communications

The College of Liberal Arts at the University of Mississippi recognized three faculty members Saturday (May 9) for their excellence in teaching.

The Liberal Arts Outstanding Teacher of the Year award went to Kathryn McKee, McMullan associate professor of Southern Studies and associate professor of English. Hilary Becker, assistant professor of classics, was given the Cora Lee Graham Award for Outstanding Teaching of Freshmen. The Liberal Arts Outstanding Instructor of the Year honor was presented to Karen Forgette, core instructor for the Department of Writing and Rhetoric.

Each recipient was recognized at the College’s commencement, presented a plaque and $1,000. Her name was also added to an award plaque in the dean’s office.

“We commend this year’s recipients for their outstanding dedication to teaching and service to our students.  These awards symbolize the importance of teaching excellence to the College’s mission,” said Rich Forgette, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and professor of political science.

Each recipient reflected upon the meaning of her selection for the prestigious honors.

“I was delighted,” McKee said. “Many fine colleagues and good friends have won it in the past, and I’m humbled to join their company. Teaching well is the most important part of my job; class is the most important part of my work day.”

Becker said she was pleased and honored that her students and the College had chosen to recognize her for her commitment to teaching.

“While at UM, I have been able to create many opportunities for students to learn about the ancient world in context, whether that is taking students to Rome to excavate, taking students to museums and galleries in New York City or providing opportunities in different classes for students to work with Greek and Roman objects from our University Museum,’” Becker said. “Whether those encounters take place locally, nationally or internationally, they contribute to what’s happening in the class but also contribute to the students’ intellectual growth.”

Winning her teaching award makes Karen Forgette, who joined the faculty 10 years ago, feel more connected than ever to the university and those who have walked there in the past two centuries.

“UM has so many outstanding teachers, and I am delighted to be associated with them,” she said. “This honor is especially gratifying to me because I truly enjoy my job. Working with young writers is like having a window into the future, and I am continually delighted and often amazed at the creativity and innovation of the next generation.”

All three honorees have earned advance degrees from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Becker was a 2004 Fulbright Scholar and a research fellow in Ohio last summer. McKee won the Cora Lee Graham Award and the Mississippi Humanities Council Humanities Teacher of the Year award for the UM campus in 2001.

Criteria for the awards include excellence of class instruction, intellectual stimulation of students, and concern for students’ welfare. Administrators said all the honorees are worthy of the recognition of their success.

“Dr. McKee is a consummate English professor, who received the highest accolades from her students, and who has the respect and admiration of her colleagues in the English department,” said Ivo Kamps, chair and professor of English. “She is well-known for teaching rigorous, well-organized classes in 19th- and 20th-century American literature that inspire graduate students and undergraduates alike.”

Molly Claire Pasco-Pranger, chair and associate professor of classics, said Becker is one of the most enthusiastic and dedicated teachers she’s ever worked with.

“She is unstintingly generous in giving extra attention to those who are struggling, but spends just as much time encouraging and mentoring those who are thriving to push themselves to places they didn’t know they could go,” she said. “It goes without saying that she knows her stuff, and knows it well. She has taught at least a dozen different classes in her three years at the university, and is as strong a teacher of Latin as she is of her specialty courses in Roman and Etruscan art and archaeology.”

Similar praises for Karen Forgette came from Robert E. Cummings, chair of writing and rhetoric and associate professor of English.

“Students are asked to work hard in her classes, and she pushes them to find new writing capabilities,” Cummings said. “But the fact that they see the benefit and realize their gains quickly enough to record their gratitude at the end of the semester is a testament to her dedication and effectiveness. Students leave her classroom motivated and inspired to continue their development as college writers.”

Founded in 1848, the College of Liberal Arts is the oldest and largest division of the University of Mississippi. For more information about the College, visit