Q&A With Kathryn Steen: 2014 Awardee of the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching
June 6, 2014
The Department of History and Politics congratulates Kathryn Steen, PhD, associate professor of history, on receiving the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching. This is not the first teaching award Steen has earned; in 2006, she also received the University's award for junior faculty, the Allan Rothwarf Award for Teaching Excellence.
You teach a range of courses including the history of technology, business history, and our "how to do history" courses. Do you have any special teaching techniques you can share?
My approach varies depending on the purpose of the course, and I'm not sure my methods are especially unusual, but I've gravitated over the years to three main strategies. First, I tend to teach about historical developments by looking comparatively and internationally. It's a useful analytical tool—helping students to imagine alternate scenarios—as well as learning about other parts of the world, and I personally prefer to paint with the larger canvas. Second, I use professional historical scholarship in classes rather than textbooks. Third, I teach with original research—that is, having students find and use documents that date to the time of study. Original research emphasizes history as a creation—as a product of detective work and interpretation.
What is it like to teach history at a university historically known for technology?
I teach history to a lot of engineering students, for starters (and they're usually very good history students, too)! But Drexel has changed pretty dramatically in the last 15 years or so, and the other colleges in the University share the limelight with the engineers these days. We have a nice situation in which we can teach history backed by an exceptionally rich technological support system. All the electronic resources make teaching original historical research easier than ever, for example. And students don't shy away from assignments like making little film documentaries based on their historical research.
You have also employed Drexel students for research co-ops. What do the students do? Are there any really stand-out amazing projects that came out of co-op mentoring?
History majors can take advantage of a few programs at the University to build and apply their research and writing skills on a "real" project. We have had students placed at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, for example, researching and writing stories for their really excellent online history of Philadelphia, PhilaPlace.org. And supported by a CoAS Humanities Fellowship, a history major helped to research and write a hefty brochure for a music CD we made for the Civil War's 150th anniversary in conjunction with the music and music industry programs here.
Congratulations Kathryn Steen!