Citation for 2002 Mount Holyoke College Faculty Award for Teaching
Please join us in Lynn Morgan's classroom. It is crowded, without an empty seat, so you will have to stand, but watch what goes on here. This class has about fifty students, others range between twenty and thirty. There is a "buzz" as they gather. Her courses are "hard, demanding," every evaluation reports. "She is the hardest professor I've ever had. She doesn't accept mediocrity, and is always available to help while she pushes students to do their best possible work." They know she is very much sought as a teacher, "the best professor I've had since I came to college" say many of her students. She walks in, "always well prepared, always professional," as students regularly comment, and lays out the issues for the day. She lists all the times she will be available for conferences that week, and plunges in.
Students say her lectures are models of clarity and organization, and as you listen, you too will be led into a complex map of theoretical perspectives on issues such as the construction of gender and sexuality, imagining the fetus, the intractable nexus of poverty and development in Latin America, or the tense boundaries around the provision of medical care. But these are not lectures in the conventional sense. She maps a complex intellectual problem, and then, in the word that appears in every evaluation, she "provokes" students to explore it from every imaginable direction and wring out the implications and contradictions. "By being so well prepared she is able to guide ANY kind of discussion...I am amazed by her ability to make what seems like a tangential comment by a student relate to the class discussion."
She invites students to develop their critical voices and use their "anthropological imagination." Ultimately, the analysis and the class discussion become a mirror in which each student can see her own deep assumptions and one-sidedness. One paper topic is to figure out where your shirt comes from - development, globalization, transnational corporations, international trade all come into focus. Finally, Lynn insists each student consider her own embeddedness in exploitative systems and what she might do in her personal life to dissolve those systems. "I love her classes because they make me think about my role as a learner and a do-er, to re-evaluate my actions and reactions to the topics." The discussion takes off, and Lynn manages the switchboard - pushing, challenging, weaving together, reining in a delicious tangent, summarizing, reframing the question, suggesting another direction.
Her demanding classroom also works because it is embedded in outside support. Lynn always has time for conferences, discussions about a paper, suggestions for revisions, advice for a research project. "Her availability to help outside of class is exceptional." "A great listener and devoted to her students."
How does she do this - "the theoretical powerhouse in the five college anthropological community," as a University of Massachusetts student described her, and the author of two very well received books in the last several years, Community Participation in Health: The Politics of Primary Care in Costa Rica and with Meredith Michaels, Fetal Subjects, Feminist Positions?
The deep answer lies in her life as a thinker and an anthropologist. She embodies as well as any person on our faculty the Mount Holyoke belief that good teaching is always closely yoked to deep wells of scholarly and creative work. She is "incredibly enthusiastic about her work, and her involvement in anthropology spills over on to the students.... I've done my most meaningful and critical thinking and work in her classes."
She pushes her students in the same way she pushes herself, to "think beyond the material and look at the larger picture." "She challenges her students to reach the limits of their intellectual capacity," just as she challenges herself. She is a person of exceedingly high standards, as all of us know. We too have felt her probing questions or struggled to explain to her why we have always done something in a certain way. She has won our great respect for her work in the Five College anthropological community, her long project of creating the Five College certificate in medical anthropology, and now, her skillful shepherding of the Academic Priorities Committee.
Lynn Morgan is a master teacher, who will continue to provoke and challenge us, her students and her colleagues, to do the very best work we are capable of.