Associate Professor Hannah Dyer in the Department of Child and Youth Studies (CHYS) is the recipient of this year’s Faculty of Social Sciences Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Dyer, who also serves as the Graduate Program Director for CHYS, says that she felt “honoured and overwhelmed” not only to receive the award, but also to be nominated by her colleagues. She was recognized as part of Brock’s Virtual Spring Convocation on Friday, June 18.
“I was also immensely grateful when I read the supporting letters that students wrote,” she says. “It reminded of the important ways they contribute to intellectual communities at Brock and truly, make it a wonderful place to teach.”
Dyer is a critical theorist of childhood with a concentration in art/aesthetics, social conflict, queer theory and psychoanalysis. In 2020, she published The Queer Aesthetics of Childhood: Asymmetries of Innocence and the Cultural Politics of Child Development.
She first came to Brock in 2017, having previously worked as an Assistant Professor at Carleton University. She says that she polished her classroom skills while teaching at the University of Toronto and Sheridan College as a PhD student.
“The pairing of these two teaching positions — being an instructor at a college and at a research-intensive university — offered me the opportunity to create curricular offerings that welcome many students into conversations that may otherwise be alienating,” says Dyer.
She was attracted to Brock because of the CHYS Department’s large size and transdisciplinary approach, as well as the then-newly created PhD program.
To enhance transdisciplinary thinking for her students, Dyer works hard to include media and cultural production in her courses, using critical analysis of everything from political campaigns to art exhibits to explore social commentary and symbolism.
“In showing students how to treat film, digital media, music and novels with as much value as other scholarly texts and textbooks, I aim to assist them in making meaning and theory from their everyday experiences and relationships,” says Dyer. “The residue of these lessons is felt months after the course has ended, as is evidenced by emails from students who have read a book or watched a show that has then reminded them of our course and its theoretical foundations.”
Dyer believes that teaching is an “ethical and urgent task that can usher in new and more just worlds,” and says the experience of transitioning courses to online delivery at the onset of the global pandemic showed just how fluid both teachers and learners need to be.
“It reminded me that I am a continuous learner myself in a world that is being reshaped by crisis, and in the altered terrains of education that come in its wake,” says Dyer. “My syllabi are often framed by questions I’d like the class to consider while we move through the semester, and they are meant to provoke thought rather than resolution — to remind both teacher and student of the social and political urgencies that drive our critique.”
As such, Dyer treats her classroom as a “site of reciprocal care” and is diligent about meeting the needs of her students.
“I am concerned with the care needed to foster a supportive environment for students who are otherwise marginalized, so my assignments and modes of assessment take seriously the needs of students whose communities and subjectivities have historically been mistreated by institutions of higher education,” says Dyer. “My courses are imagined as both events and processes, whereby learning happens for both student and teacher. The teacher is tasked with an ethical duty to demonstrate why learning new things matters for both the student and the teacher.”
Earlier this year, the Faculty of Social Sciences also awarded its top honours for research, the Distinguished Researcher and Early Career Researcher of the Year.
Professor Andrea Doucet of the Department of Sociology and the Centre for Women’s and Gender Studies was named the Faculty of Social Sciences Distinguished Researcher for 2020. Doucet holds a Tier I Canada Research Chair in Gender, Work and Care and recently began work on a SSHRC Partnership Grant entitled Reimagining Care/Work Policies (2020-2027).
The Faculty chose to name two Early Career Researchers of the Year for 2020: Assistant Professor Jessica Blythe of the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC), the faculty lead on the Niagara Adapts Innovative Partnership, and Assistant Professor Julia Baird of the Department of Geography and Tourism Studies and the ESRC, who holds a Tier II Canada Research Chair in Human Dimensions of Water Resources and Water Resilience.
Ingrid Makus, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, says the Faculty’s award winners have all continued to do extraordinary work in spite of the circumstances of this extraordinary year.
“At a time when we are collectively being moved to reimagine the society around us, these exceptional faculty members have redoubled their efforts to expand and share knowledge around urgent issues,” says Makus. “Hannah Dyer’s creative and conscientious approach to teaching and the significant research contributions of Andrea Doucet, Julia Baird and Jessica Blythe have a clear, positive impact on the world around us. Their ongoing work is a source of great pride for the Faculty, and it is our pleasure to recognize them for their achievements.”