When Kelly Swartz, PhD, assistant professor of English, started teaching at Adelphi University two years ago, ensuring her students got the most out of her class was her number-one concern. This year, she was nominated and went on to win the award for Professor of the Year at Adelphi's Brown and Gold Awards.
by Nii Akrofi Smart-Abbey, MFA ’20 (anticipated)
When Kelly Swartz, PhD, assistant professor of English, started teaching at Adelphi University two years ago, ensuring her students got the most out of her class was her number-one concern. As a result, she said, “I made a lot of changes on the fly depending on student reactions.”
Her students apparently appreciated her efforts. This year, she was nominated and went on to win the award for Professor of the Year at Adelphi’s Brown and Gold Awards. This annual event, hosted by the Center for Student Involvement, recognizes student leaders and organizations as well as faculty and staff who excelled in the academic year.
“I was really honored and flattered to receive the award, and I guess a bit surprised,” Dr. Swartz said, adding that it means a lot to her to get this vote of approval from her students.
Dr. Swartz is a lover of books. She became fascinated with people, places and events from hundreds of years ago as a college student. She went on to earn a PhD from Princeton University and specializes in British literature dating back to the 17th century.
“I spent many years reading old books,” she said. “I think about the past a lot and like talking about the past as much as the present.”
Dr. Swartz said she prefers to get students involved in lively discussions in class rather than having them listen to her lecture. She also assigns works from a diverse reading list so students are more likely to find texts that interest them. The authors are diverse as well. “I assign texts by men and women, by non-binary persons, by persons of color, by persons of different abilities,” Dr. Swartz said.
She said that students appreciate “authentic, relatively detailed feedback about their work.
“I don’t want them to feel they’re doing empty work because this is their time and they should be engaged,” she said. “They should know that someone is reading their work who cares and takes their ideas seriously.”
Dr. Swartz not only gives feedback to students, she seeks out how students feel about her. She received a tip from Carlyn Ferrari, PhD, a colleague in the English Department, to set up a Google forum where students can provide feedback on what they think of her classes without using their names.
Does Dr. Swartz have any tips to share with her fellow professors? “Bring a lot of energy to the class,” she said.
If you’re wondering what books Dr. Swartz assigns to her students, here are her top five choices from one of her classes this past spring. Happy reading!
- Confessions of the Fox: A Novel by Jordy Rosenberg (2018)
- Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin (1956)
- The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson (2015)
- Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel (2006)
- Fantomina; or, Love in a Maze by Eliza Haywood (1725)
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