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Teaching the process of discovery

Paintings, pottery, and PowerPoint presentations are all valued as art in a culture where people are visually literate, says Katie Hauser, chair of the art history department and winner of this year’s Ciancio Award for Excellence in Teach- ing. “We need to be aware of the rele- vance of objects in the world. It’s my job to show the link between art history and what we all, always, see around us.” A native of Australia who grew up in Hong Kong and England before her fami- ly moved to the US, Hauser found her in- tellectual calling during high school in California. She is now known for her sub- stantial scholarship on the contemporary figurative painter George Tooker. But as drawn as she is to the stim- ulating work of re- search, she asserts that her deepest daily satisfaction comes from the classroom. At Skidmore since 1997, she has taught modern and contemporary art, the history of photography, modern design, and women and the visual arts. “I approach teaching as an ethical practice,” she says. “This means teaching

students to evaluate information fairly and not take anything for granted, know- ing each other’s names to create a colle- gial atmosphere, keeping a sense of humor, maintaining high expectations and always raising the bar, being avail- able, and making the classroom experi-

ence demanding and engaging. A day goes well when discussion is animated and someone has an ‘aha’ moment.” A self-de-

scribed tough grader who logs 60 to 70 work hours a week,


Hauser helps students between and after their classes. She initiated a course where seniors learn about resumes and job interviews. She encourages students to take advantage of work, volunteer, and internship opportunities at Skid- more’s Tang Museum, which she calls “an extraordinary resource.” Creating another net- working oppor- tunity, she


hosts a fall din- ner in her rural home to re- unite students when they re- turn from study abroad. Her ef- forts make an impression: David Serotte ’11 says, “Katie fosters mean- ingful dialogue in the class- room by en- couraging stu- dents to answer each other’s questions and develop a multi- faceted inter-

pretation of course material,” and Frances Gubler ’10, now a fellow at the Shelburne Museum, says being Hauser’s student was “a wake-up call.” Hauser’s enlightened approach to both pedagogy and course material enables students to “literally see the world differ-

ently,” observes fellow art historian Mimi Hellman. “Their newfound visual acuity changes the way they navigate the visual- ly saturated en- vironments of everyday life. This transfer of knowledge and

skill from the classroom to the ‘real world’ is a transformative experience for students, and one of the things that makes Katie a great teacher.” Former students concur. Jennifer Kuba

’05, archivist and curator at the Adiron- dack History Center Museum, praises equally Hauser’s abilities as a professor and as a personal mentor. “Katie never just delivered lectures to her students or passively dictated material from a text- book. She forced me to look, listen, read, analyze … and never settle. Katie stood behind me by showing that it’s OK to collapse, question myself, cry and get angry with the academic material, but never to give up. I learned that the aca- demic mind must continue to probe.” Caitlin Woolsey ’07 remembers Hauser as a “demanding and engaging teacher, who takes her students seriously and treats them in a way that is concerted, conscientious, and thoughtful.” “It’s a privilege to be involved with these emerging adults,” Hauser says. “I have a lot of respect for my students, and if you treat them that way, they will rise to it 99.9 percent of the time.” Off the clock, Hauser is a dog lover who likes to exercise, garden, and visit galleries. She laughs a lot. She appreciates the stunning Northeast landscape and is gratified that her ideas are received well at Skidmore. “Of course it’s challenging and demanding,” she says of her busy life. “It’s a process of discovery, wherever you stand. That’s the point.” —Helen S. Edelman ’74



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