Mount Allison Sociology professor, Ardath Whynacht is the first recipient of the Social Sciences Teaching Award at the University. The award, announced at the University Assembly on Sept. 1, was created to recognize teaching excellence in non-tenured professors in Social Sciences.
Dr. Erin Steuter, head of the Department of Sociology says. “The selection committee were particularly impressed with the creativity and innovation of her assignments, her care and attention to her students, and her work in trauma-informed education.”
Whynacht is a professor who puts a great deal of thought into her teaching and research.
“I want to challenge students to think deeply about the subject matter in my courses but at the same time to feel safe asking questions,” she says.
This research and teaching sometimes covers some difficult topics that are not easy to teach, including violence, inequality, illness, sexual assault, and family abuse. In order to do so she tries to create a compassionate space for her students using trauma-informed pedagogy. Her own research looks at health and psychiatric knowledge, youth studies, prisons, cultural criminology, and disability studies.
“Ardath has successfully connected her research and teaching, allowing students an opportunity to see the real-world impact their discipline can have,” says Dr. Nauman Farooqi, Mount Allison’s dean of Social Sciences.
Whynacht’s students talk of her individual attention to their academic needs and how she created a safe space to discuss these difficult topics in the classroom. As well, they emphasize her kind and compassionate approach to their needs outside the classroom.
“I worked with her on many essays for her classes. She put the time and effort above what would be expected to help me achieve my goals and to discuss the essentials to my doing well in her classes,” says recent Sociology graduate Karen Linton. “She is an excellent professor.”
Whynacht gives students the option to submit a creative project using the arts, including drama, spoken word, photography, and creating podcasts to present data from their work. In her Critical Criminology class, students may use speculative fiction to expand on their course material to imagine a post-prison world. She also offers experiential learning opportunities by taking student into the field to see how the sociological theories they are learning in class work in practice and for one class they visit Dorchester Penitentiary.
“Ardath’s teaching is innovative, socially relevant, and greatly appreciated by her students. Her use of inquiry-based pedagogy has proved successful for student achievement,” says Sociology professor Dr. Fab Antonelli. “She also has the ability to connect her classroom teaching with the wider community. And this is essential for teachers in the social sciences, to make these connections between what is being learned in the classroom to its relevance in society.”
Whynacht has developed new courses in Sociology and has offered valuable feedback to her colleagues on course development and approaches to teaching.