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Katherine Scheil Receives 2016-17 Graduate & Professional Teacher Award

May 11, 2017

Portrait: Katherine West Scheil

Portrait: Katherine West Scheil
Katherine West Scheil, professor, Department of English (Photo by Patrick O'Leary)
“My awareness of the challenges and pleasures of graduate education has motivated me to inspire students by teaching, mentoring, supporting, and empowering them to grow and excel in their intellectual pursuits.”

When Katherine Scheil became director of graduate studies in 2011, prospects for financial support and the job market for liberal arts majors faced lean times.

After a thorough review of her department’s graduate program, she began mentoring partnerships to help students prepare for their preliminary exams and new procedures to ensure timely graduation.

She procured new funds to support research and travel, and brought in donors for research fellowships aimed at incoming students. One ingenious innovation was an early decision research bonus, which gave extra funding to candidates who accepted Minnesota’s offer of admission early.

Scheil also made sure every entering PhD student received a fellowship or at least one semester to devote to research activities. And she ran a series of professional skills workshops in the areas of giving conference papers, publishing, applying for fellowships and grants, and balancing work and family.

The fruits of her labors became evident as incoming graduate students started winning CLA fellowships and advanced students began earning doctoral dissertation fellowships, both in record numbers. Scheil is also credited with a whopping 95 percent job placement rate for graduates. And it doesn’t end there.

“Now that she is no longer the director of graduate studies, she continues to support me personally by giving generously of her time,” notes a doctoral student. “That kind of dedication to graduate student education is rare.”