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Rebecca Godderis, associate professor of Health Studies and Society, Culture and Environment, is a leader in creating a safe and empowering learning environment for her students.

In recognition of Godderis’ genuine and intimate teaching style, her students honoured her with the 2015 Ontario Undergraduate Student Association (OUSA) Award for Teaching Excellence, an award that recognizes educators who excel at unlocking the potential of Ontario’s youth.

Godderis teaches courses on gender theories and cultures, race and oppression, and Canadian identities, which requires her students to develop critical thinking skills so they may reflect on society and themselves, challenge established norms, and voice new perspectives. However, in order to talk about such topics – some which may feel sensitive or controversial – Godderis knows that her students must feel comfortable in their learning environment.

“I am asking students to think critically about the ideals they hold and their own personal behaviours in relation to issues like gender norms and experiences of gendered violence,” says Godderis. “We need to work together to create the right kind of space in the classroom to have those conversations.”

Godderis says simple things such as knowing the names of her students are crucial to creating safer spaces and to fostering dialogues between students, and between the students and herself. Part of creating this safer space also involves discussing concepts like power and privilege. For Godderis, this includes the need to challenge the idea that valid knowledge only comes from professors.

“It’s important to me that the students understand I am not the only person in the room with expertise,” she says. “Each person who joins the class brings their own knowledge that is grounded in real life experience.”

Godderis will be sharing her acclaimed teaching style at the Simone de Beauvoir Institute at Concordia University in February 2016: she was awarded a 2015-2016 Lillian Robinson Visiting Scholar Award, which honours the feminist scholarship of the school’s former principal, Dr. Lillian Robinson.

Godderis has also received two merit awards from Laurier since joining the university in 2009. Additional details on Godderis' academic profile, research interests and ongoing projects are available on her faculty webpage.


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