Professor Yuhl Wins Teaching Medal

Jackie Cannon

Chief News Editor

Professor Yuhl, the director of the Montserrat Program, a history professor, and the author of award-winning articles and books, won the Donal J. Burns ‘49 Career Teaching Medal during the fall Provost’s address given by Dean Freije.

Campus community members nominate a faculty member who “has served the College as an outstanding full-time teacher for an extended period and exemplifies the high standard of teaching excellence of which the Holy Cross community is justly proud,” according to the College of the Holy Cross faculty awards website. This award, previously called the “Distinguished Teaching Award,” allows the College to recognize faculty who stand out in their fields as exceptional educators.

When asked about her initial reaction to learning she had won the award, Yuhl, who also won the Marfuggi Award for Academic Advisement in 2011, shared, “I was really surprised, and of course, honored, but also humbled. There are so many distinguished teachers at Holy Cross, many of whom I have learned from directly. So it was pretty overwhelming to be singled out in this way.” In an article published on the Holy Cross website, both students and Dean Freije acknowledged that Yuhl treats her students as “fellow historian[s]” and “colleagues.”

In the same article, Yuhl also expressed her belief in the importance of empathizing with students and understanding where they come from. “You also need to remember that students are always in the process of becoming,” Yuhl remarked. “It is really important to try to understand something of what is going on for students outside of class as well because that can have a major impact on their learning.”

In addition to this encouraging attitude towards students, Yuhl also advocates for collaboration among

both faculty and students. In her speech at the awards ceremony, she shared her beliefs with other faculty members that “‘We need to open our classrooms and our labs and our studios up to each other, not for assessment, but for creating relationships where we can learn from each other.’” She also expressed these beliefs when discussing her role as Montserrat director, and how she helps create “opportunities for community building.”

After teaching at the College for 17 years, Yuhl has had a lasting impact. Before serving as the director of the Montserrat program, she served as the director of the Self Cluster, and has taught in the program “since its inception.” In the article on the Holy Cross website, Alicia Molt ‘09, the current deputy chief of staff to representative Mark Pocan (D-WI), stated “‘I would not be in my current vocation if it were not for Stephanie’s constant encouragement and her commitment to her students’ success,” says Molt. “The passion and enthusiasm Stephanie Yuhl brings to her classroom is truly inspiring and infectious.’”

Carly Priest, a senior who has worked with Yuhl on multiple projects, including a Washington Semester Thesis, a History Honors Thesis, and summer research, stated, “It is impossible to exaggerate the profound impact Professor Yuhl has had on my academic and intellectual development at Holy Cross. When I consider the most formative experiences of my life, writing and researching under the guidance of Professor Yuhl tops the list.”

When asked how and when she knew she wanted to be a history professor, Yuhl described herself as always loving history, reading, and writing. Although she began her career in fields such as law, journalism, and public relations, she ultimately decided to become like the professor she herself admired in college by becoming a professor of history who is “part of important conversations and debates about the possibilities and limitations of American democracy and of cultivating engaged citizen-students.”

Her classes at Holy Cross fall under a variety of themes that speak to both historical and contemporary issues, particularly relating to gender and sexuality. Yuhl describes two of her favorite classes to teach—though she enjoys many more—as her historical themes class,“Post-1945 U.S. Social Movements” and an advanced seminar, “Memory wars,” about “challenge of representing history in public settings.”

Yuhl explains that she enjoys teaching her themes class “because it is such fun to push first-year students past their index card-obsessed AP U.S. History experiences and into examining historical problems from many different angles with an eye toward unpacking how power works and how social change happens (or fails to happen).” Her teaching style represents her overall desire to allow students to learn as historians and understand the world in new ways.

Because Yuhl’s role as Montserrat director is a “twelve-month job,” she has adapted her research to more local work. She highlighted her work “curating an exhibit on LGBTQ history in Worcester for the Worcester Historical Museum” and her role as project coordinator and lead scholar for a project that will recreate “a 2009 art exhibit on history, race, and power in Charleston, SC, and develop an online catalog of the exhibit.”

Yuhl has touched many students in her time at Holy Cross and students admire her on both a personal and professional level. Priest explained, “[Yuhl] engages students with provocative questions and challenges mainstream notions about what histories scholars and students should consider ‘more relevant,’ as holding ‘more validity’ than others. Moreover, she’s radically hilarious, and I admire her tremendously.”

 

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