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Catherine Lee

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching
Ph.D. Candidate in English

Catherine Lee


Catherine Ji Won Lee defended her dissertation and obtained her Ph.D. in English in March 2023. She also holds an M.A. in English from the University of British Columbia and a B.A. (high honors) in English from the University of California, Berkeley. Her dissertation, “Romantic Humility: Literature, Ethico-Politics, and Emotion, 1780-1820,” was supported by a Katherine Goodman Stern Fellowship from The Graduate School. It examines the emergence of a form of secular humility in literary writings from the Romantic period that does not focus on self-abasement but on selflessness.

At Duke, Lee has designed and taught four undergraduate courses, including two that were held online during the pandemic. She has also served as a teaching assistant for three courses and a teaching apprentice for two others. Lee is currently a Bass Digital Education Fellow, a Thompson Writing Program Writing Studio consultant, and a Global Teaching Fellow for the Duke International Comparative Studies Program. She has also pursued other opportunities to develop her teaching skills, such as the Certificate in College Teaching and the Preparing Future Faculty program offered by The Graduate School, the Thompson Writing Program’s Certificate of Accomplishment in Teaching Writing in the Disciplines, Bass Connections, Provost Experiential Fellowships, and a Bass Instructional Fellowship.


What do you enjoy about teaching?

While there is much to enjoy about teaching, my favorite part has to be building community in the classroom. During the semester, this community feels full of promise. There is something exhilarating about being all together with students who are eager to learn and grow with one another. I love learning about my students and listening to what they have to say.

What resources or strategies have you found to be helpful in your development as a teacher?

Feedback from my students, colleagues, and mentors has all been crucial to my development as a teacher. I have been especially grateful to find generous and observant evaluators of my teaching in my students, who have been sources of encouragement as well as specific, constructive feedback.

What does a successful classroom look like? How do you go about creating such a setting?

I believe while a successful classroom can take many forms, it must be grounded in an environment where every student feels as though his/her/their presence matters. I incorporate many active learning strategies into my teaching to encourage this feeling in my students. I often give students time to write down their thoughts before speaking. I have found that this helps students—especially those less comfortable with thinking on their feet—participate more actively, confidently, and seemingly to their satisfaction.


Excerpts from Lee’s nominations

“I have had multiple opportunities to observe Ms. Lee teach, and thus to see how her practice of Romantic humility enables her to facilitate student learning, confidence, and achievement. … During my first observation, I found Ms. Lee to be a very strong teacher; during my second observation, I found her to be an absolutely exceptional teacher.”

“The atmosphere of the class was friendly and engaged, in large part because Ms. Lee both listened so well, and responded in such productive ways, to student comments.”

“Catherine Lee is one of the kindest and most supportive instructors I've had in my educational career. Unforgettable discussions of great works of literature.”

“I was not excited about having to take Writing 101 but Catherine easily made this class one of my favorites I was in this semester. She is funny, down to earth, and overall curious about what her students have to say.”