on the occasion of her receiving the Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award at the 2011 Commencement of Franklin & Marshall College
Professor Carol Auster arrived at F&M in fall 1981, straight from graduate school. Always known as an excellent teacher, she has become extraordinary in the last 10 years.
Professor Auster’s roots in academia are deep. She grew up in Canton, N.Y., where both of her parents were college professors, then graduated from Colgate University before moving on to Princeton University for her Ph.D. Her life illustrates the power of following one’s passion.
Outstanding in the classroom, Professor Auster elicits student praise for the structure of her classes. Carefully selected readings excite and motivate even reluctant students. As one student notes, “She made me fall in love with sociology!” She challenges students with her high standards, pushing them to think outside the box in such popular classes as “Sociology of Gender” and “Sociology of Work.” Students tell of how effective she is at encouraging discussion and drawing out those who are quieter by nature. They praise her genuine interest in their responses and the fact that “no one is unheard.”
Her warmth and kindness, her open door and the fact that she makes time for everyone are legendary. In the words of another student, “I can talk to her about anything, and that makes a world of difference with a professor.” Students love her field trips and reminisce about them fondly years later. She regularly invites students into her home, and the interest she takes in students’ lives outside the classroom lingers long after they graduate. One student tells of how pleased she was to receive a note from Professor Auster — two years after the student took one of her classes — praising her for an accomplishment described in the College Reporter that week.
Professor Auster stretches herself. Several years ago she left behind her legendary “Research Methods” class to develop new courses, such as her Foundations course, “Community and Connectedness,” and to re-invigorate old ones, such as “Introduction to Sociology.” She continues to guide student research outside the traditional classroom setting. In addition to independent studies, she offers students “informal” research opportunities, in which she works with them outside of class over the summer and during the year to extend their work on promising projects. The genesis of these projects is the students’ own research, and the intensive teaching/mentoring she provides in this setting shows how difficult it is to separate the two when done this well.
Professor Auster teaches on a broad canvas that extends well beyond sociology. She has been a fully engaged citizen of the College, as a member of the Professional Standards Committee and the Fringe Benefits and Fair Practices Committees, in addition to serving as department chair. She is faculty mentor to Posse 6. She is also fully engaged in the larger sociological community, publishing on research and pedagogy on a range of topics, including women engineers, gendered choices in leisure, ethics in higher education and race relations on college campuses.
In short, Carol Auster embodies the best of what we offer our students here at Franklin & Marshall. In recognition of this, we are pleased to award her the 2011 Christian and Mary F. Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching.
Daniel R. Porterfield, Ph.D.
President of the College
Given this Fourteenth Day of May
Two Thousand Eleven