Karen Gonzalez Rice
Karen Gonzalez Rice, a doctoral student in the Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies, received a B.A. in Art History from University of Texas at Austin in 1998 and an M.A. in American Studies, also from University of Texas at Austin, in 2003. Her research explores Christianity and traumatic experience in contemporary American performance art. Karen’s nominations demonstrate her dedication to teaching unforgettable and inspiring classes at Duke that motivate students and engage them in fundamental questions of art history. She is impeccably organized and inventive in her approach to teaching undergraduates, creating assignments that mimic art historical practices and integrating writing into the classroom to provide opportunities for sustained reflection on the implications of artists’ ideas. She has also designed a workshop for graduate students to study and explore innovative strategies for teaching art history survey courses.
Karen’s dedication and enthusiasm about improving ways to teach students led her to create an art history graduate student teaching group in 2006 funded through a grant program at Duke University. The intention behind this group was to exchange ideas about effective pedagogy, both theoretical and practical. Some of the themes that she developed for this group include the study of developmental theories of young adult learning, visual literacy, how to lead lively discussion, and how to teach students to “think historically.” As academics, we often do not have opportunities to discuss teaching and the needs of students. What is so impressive is that Karen recognized the necessity for these types of discussions early, and the entire graduate student community benefited from her generosity and commitment.
Karen possesses a truly unique combination of talents and skills that contribute to her gifts as a leader, mentor, and teacher. She is cool, analytical, and has an incisive mind; she is generous of spirit and willing to take time to support others intellectually and emotionally with their work; she has the ability to think about the personality and the needs of each student, and also bring a class together as a group; her fine-tuned, ironic sense of humor relaxes her students; and she has excellent communication and interpersonal skills.
I have read Karen’s teaching evaluations, and students have consistently given her the highest ratings. In the comments section, a regular point made is that while she was “tough,” she was “excellent.” Other adjectives to describe her are “dynamic,” “enthusiastic,” “accessible,” “brilliant.” Many have commented that Karen is one of the best if not the very best teachers they have had at Duke in any department. I have had students in my classes who had Karen as a teaching assistant or later as their instructor, and they have consistently told me how much they valued her.
Far from simply imparting information, Karen takes a creative approach to teaching by implementing active learning techniques into the classroom that inspire and challenge both students and peers.