BLACKSBURG, Va., April 26, 2011 – Kwame Harrison, associate professor of sociology and Africana studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech, received the university's 2011 Edward S. Diggs Teaching Scholars Award.
Sponsored by the Diggs Endowed Professorship Fund and the Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research, the Diggs Teaching Scholars Award was established in 1992 and is presented annually to three Virginia Tech faculty members to recognize exceptional contributions to the teaching program and learning environment. A cash award is given to each recipient and their academic department. Diggs Teaching Scholars are invited to lead the Diggs Roundtable -- a series of presentations and a discussion of their innovative teaching -- a year after receiving the award.
The award is supported by an endowed fund from an estate gift by the late Edward S. and Hattie Wilson Diggs. Edward Diggs was a 1914 graduate of Virginia Tech.
“Students are transformed by Kwame’s teaching,” said John Ryan, professor and chair of the Department of Sociology who, along with Associate Professor of Sociology Laura Gillman, nominated Harrison for the award. “Students say how they were encouraged to voice their opinions, how contagious his passion is for his subject, how much they grow, and how much their lives are touched and forever changed.”
Harrison, who typically teaches one sociology and one Africana studies course each semester, cultivates relationships in the classroom that are based on a shared humanity, rather than defaulting to the formal teacher-student role, Ryan said.
“Kwame’s ‘pedagogy of community’ is not a labored, self-conscious construct," Ryan said. “He likes and sees the best in students. He is excited to get to know them, and all this helps to build a relationship based on trust and mutuality. It allows the students to take risks in their learning and be willing to open themselves up to the subject matter.”
Harrison is a member of the American Anthropological Association, International Association for the Study of Popular Music, National Council for Black Studies, Southern Sociological Society, and Association for the Study of African American Life and History. He received his bachelor's degree from the University of Massachusetts and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from Syracuse University.