Kathryn Ludwig, assistant teaching professor of English, has been named the 2023 recipient of the Lawhead Award in General Education. This award recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to Ball State University’s Core Curriculum (UCC) program. In many respects, the core curriculum has become Ball State’s signature program. The university is widely recognized for its leadership in using general and liberal studies as an academic framework. The core curriculum is frequently the foundation for teaching innovations, and it provides focus for faculty scholarship.

What is the significance of the Lawhead Award to you?

Obviously any university-wide recognition of my teaching means a great deal to me. The Lawhead Award is especially meaningful because it acknowledges my work in the core. The core is where most of my teaching occurs, and I believe it to be really important to student success. Recognition of my contributions to that stage in a student’s career means a lot.

Can you tell us more about the outstanding contributions that you’ve made to Ball State’s University core curriculum program?

I’d say what is unique about my teaching career at Ball State is the variety of courses that I’ve taught. I’ve taught writing courses, literature courses, cultural studies, and Honor’s College courses. Doing so has allowed me to teach many different kinds of students in the core. Interacting with a variety of students strengthens me as a teacher because I understand more about how students from different backgrounds, going into different majors, and at different stages in their career are experiencing their education. I’ve also been able to do a lot in the writing program thanks to opportunities, mainly that Dr. Jennifer Grouling Snider has thrown my way, so I’m thankful for that. I’m also very proud of the immersive first year composition class, a project I’ve collaborated on with Dr. Darolyn Jones and Dr. Laura Romano. I contribute in a tangential way as associate director of the writing program because I get to mentor grad students who also teach in the core. That also is something that I think grows me as a teacher.

What kind of responses have you received from other staff in the department or on campus about this award?

Just glowing support and enthusiasm. It really makes me feel so loved and valued in my department to be congratulated in the ways that I have and that my colleagues are happy for me. These are people whom I respect so deeply and who know my work over time. So that means a lot to me and makes the award even more special.

How does it feel to have earned this award?

It’s kind of hard to believe. I am the fourth person in my department to win this award since it was created, so to be in the company of folks like Dr. Rai Peterson, Dr. Paul Ranieri, and Dr. Mary Clark-Flynn, who was a mentor of mine, is really special. I’m just thankful for the opportunity that I’ve had here at Ball State to teach. I’m thankful for my colleagues, especially Dr. Matt Hotham who nominated me and Dave Concepcion who was integral to that nomination, seeing the work I do as valuable.

Have there been any specific scenarios or situations over your time teaching that exemplify the values that the award stands for?

There have been a couple of classes where students built for themselves a community that seemed to be more than a class, rather than something they had to show up for two or three times a week. To me, that embodies the potential of a core class. Students connect with each other in a way that gives them a sense of belonging and makes coming together to learn something to look forward to. When it’s done well, students really thrive at Ball State. And for me, that’s what I aim to recreate in every class that I teach. I look at those classes where some sort of chemistry happened among the students, and I try to recreate that for students so that they feel excited about being here.

What skills or experience of yours do you think contribute to your work in the curriculum?

I think my studies in Jewish philosophy are key to my success as an educator. I am deeply influenced by the philosophies of Martin Buber which emphasize ethical relation and interacting in a way that values the other in a way that is authentic, present, and accessible. I believe it transforms my teaching, giving me a chance to interact and be in an exchange that is potentially meaningful every day. The heart of my teaching is the recognition that content learning is made possible by the relationships that you are forging in the classroom.