Excellence in Teaching: StFX’s Dr. Rachel Hurst recognized with AAU 2023 Distinguished Teaching Award

Dr. Rachel Hurst 2023
Dr. Rachel Hurst

Dr. Rachel Hurst, a professor in the StFX Women's and Gender Studies Program, has been recognized for excellence in teaching, receiving the Association of Atlantic Universities (AAU) Award for Distinguished Teaching 2023.

The presentation was made Sept. 20th in Moncton, NB.

“I am delighted to be a recipient of the 2023 AAU Distinguished Teaching Award! I share this honour with my students and colleagues in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at StFX, my teaching mentor Linda Briskin, and the wonderful teachers I’ve had throughout my life as they inspire and challenge me to be a better teacher all the time,” says Dr. Hurst, who was also singled out for excellence in teaching in 2020 when she received StFX’s Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award.

“I am grateful for the support of Erin Austen, Lennique Bannister, Morgan Bimm, Sutapa Chattopadhyay, Amanda Cockshutt, Laura Cormier, Nancy Forestell, Audrey Gunn, Isis Hatte, Angie Kolen, Shila LeBlanc, Kim MacLean, Peter Mallory, Rebecca Mesay, Hannah Moore, Elizabeth O’Brien, Zeynep Ozkok, Jack Rice, Charlene Weaving, Sydney Van De Wiel, and Riley Wolfe, who wrote letters and provided feedback on my dossier, and to the AAU Coordinating Committee on Faculty Development for their work.”

Dr. Hurst has made enormous contributions since joining StFX faculty in 2009, in fostering equity, diversity and inclusion in and out of the classroom, as a faculty mentor to students, and in ensuring social issues on campus are addressed. Students and colleagues say Dr. Hurst creates a learning environment where students are encouraged to explore challenging concepts and themes, in a manner which is open and safe.

Her pedagogical skills have also been key in the growth of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program over the last decade. Dr. Hurst spearheaded the development of an honours option and contributed significantly to innovative educational programming, redesigning the curriculum, developing four new courses and co-developing a fifth. She was also central in helping develop StFX’s Social Justice Colloquium, in which she also previously taught and served as coordinator.

Dr. Hurst has guided students through applying for and securing summer research awards and has supervised numerous students both in undergraduate research roles and in completing honours and advanced major degrees.

She has integrated course-based service learning into her teaching and has previously served as a faculty leader for an immersion service learning trip to Grenada. Her impact is also felt in the creation of the Hive for Feminist Research, a monthly seminar series open to the campus community, and its annual lecture series. Additionally, she served for four years as LGBTQ2S student advisor at StFX.

StFX Academic Vice President & Provost Dr. Amanda Cockshutt and Human Kinetics Department Chair, Dr. Charlene Weaving, said that one of Dr. Hurst’s strongest teaching skills is her ability to engage students and foster learning outcomes where theory is applied. “Students flourish with the variety of assignments and opportunities to apply theory. They become highly motivated and in numerous cases, the learning continues after they finish the course,” they wrote in nominating her for the award.

“We need look no further than the voices of her students to understand why Dr. Hurst is an outstanding, award-winning educator. Her students describe her as ‘excellent,’ ‘phenomenal’ and ‘amazing.’ They report that she is ‘passionate, enthusiastic, and inclusive’ in the classroom,” says retired psychology professor Dr. Kim MacLean and sociology professor Dr. Peter Mallory.

“Dr. Hurst’s very impressive accomplishments in university teaching have had an enormous positive impact on undergraduate students at our university, on the interdisciplinary program of WMGS, and on colleagues through the university,” says StFX women’s and gender studies professor Dr. Nancy Forestell.

Current and former students say Dr. Hurst played a pivotal role throughout their time at StFX.   

“Dr. Hurst brings a passion and grace that inspires and encourages students to dig their feet into the learning material in profound and personal ways. One of her greatest strengths is the ability to really meet students where they are and provide various types of classroom experiences that speak to the various ways that people learn,” says StFX graduate Audrey Gunn.

Riley Wolfe says now as a graduate student, “I continue to rely on many of the skills, advice, and knowledge that I learned from Rachel.”

“Dr. Hurst contributed greatly to some of the most life-changing experiences that I had as a university student,” says StFX graduate Rebecca Mesay. “Her impact is tangible both in the respect from her students and the esteem of her colleagues.”

In addition to her teaching, Dr. Hurst is also a prolific researcher and an engaged member of the local and academic community.