Mount Holyoke College Faculty Award for Teaching
Those of us who are committed to teaching at a small liberal arts college, in particular at Mount Holyoke College, know that there is one particular feat toward which we strive in our teaching. We have attained this goal when students, by their own admission, work hard, perhaps harder than ever before, and face rigorous expectations, sometimes beyond what they think they can accomplish. But, they describe this experience as enjoyable, as a kind of pleasurable intellectual process that is transformative, generative, and without a doubt “worth it.” What makes this paradox possible – incredibly hard work and high standards co-existing with a sense of gratifying and profound accomplishment – is a professor who is a brilliant scholar, a gifted teacher, but who also knows how to create a classroom that is supportive in deep ways. I’m sure that you have figured out that I have just described Kavita Khory. This is why we are honoring her today with the Mount Holyoke College Faculty Award for Teaching.
Kavita’s scholarly work is profoundly transnational. She has published on nationalism, migration, diaspora, insurgency, and security in South Asia but also conducts research on diasporic communities in Europe and the United States. She is an expert on US policy in Pakistan and throughout South Asia. She is the editor of the volume, Global Migration: Challenges in the Twenty-First Century (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2012). Her impressive expertise has informed the development of an impressive, wide-ranging, and interdisciplinary curriculum in two departments: Politics and International Relations. Notably, she is currently chair of BOTH of these important departments, which speaks to her leadership at the College and also to the profound respect that her colleagues have for her. Her courses include larger introductory classes such as “World Politics” as well as more advanced and specialized courses such as “War and Peace in South Asia,” “War and Propaganda,” and “International Migration.” Her courses speak to and make interventions into a host of urgent global issues. They provide rigorous, complex ways to understand the experiences of our international student body and more broadly to understand specific political phenomena in a global context.
Indeed, students describe how they leave Kavita’s classes understanding the world in radically different ways than when they entered and how they learn to think rigorously in an international framework: “I always read about incidents happening abroad or domestically but never really thought about how much they would impact the international community [until now].” Students describe what they learn and how they learn as “mind-blowing,” “challenging,” and “eye-opening.” They consistently explain that Kavita is “one of the best professors I’ve taken a class with” or that she has taught “one of the best classes I’ve taken,” that she is “brilliant” and “amazing.” As one student explains, “I think it would be safe to say that this is the one class that made Mt. Holyoke totally worth it for me.” However, they also take the time to explain exactly why this is so. Kavita is a master at leading class discussion, encouraging students “to share [their] thoughtful opinions.” However, those opinions must be well-informed and well-considered. Her students are encouraged to think for themselves and are taught how to do that responsibly. That means “question[ing] everything,” but with rigor and care. That means not being afraid of disagreement and of being pushed. Make no mistake. Kavita Khory is “tough,” “passionate,” “demanding,” and even sometimes a little “intimidating.” The questions, histories, and issues about which she teaches are relevant and pressing, particularly at this historical juncture, and so hard work, thoughtfulness, precision, and respect are required. However, she makes these demands and sets these high expectations in a classroom that is supportive in ways that make such rigor possible. “Professor Khory created one of the most inclusive classroom environments I have encountered at MHC,” says one student of many.
Kavita Khory pushes our students’ understanding of global politics in ways that do justice to our diverse community and that prepare our students to engage in the international debates that shape the world into which they step upon graduation. Perhaps as one of our most distinguished alumnae, she is especially prepared to do so. Today we celebrate her many contributions to the College, especially as a remarkable teacher who shows us the possibilities inherent in liberal arts education in the contemporary moment, when it is needed more than ever.