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Kate Staples Ph.D.

Kate Staples

Dr. Kate Staples is using her passions for history and writing to teach WVU students how to communicate effectively and concisely on a professional level.

Staples, a WVU history department associate chair and associate professor of 11 years, was recently awarded the 2016 Caperton Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Writing. In all of her undergraduate and graduate level history courses, Staples incorporates some form of writing exercise. This ensures her students gain the skills they need in order to compete in the job market, express their ideas and connect with others.

“One of the strongest skills students can leave college with is the ability to write concisely, cogently, effectively,” Staples said. “If they can do that, they’ll succeed.”

Her methods for teaching writing vary from weekly in-class writings, to workshop-style classes that allow students to come together, share ideas, talk about the challenges people face when they write and reflect on their own writing.

With writing as the foundation, Staples teaches courses on medieval Europe, British history, world history, western civilization and the history of women, gender and sexuality. Although it may not seem so at first, Staples says medieval history is still relevant today.

“Medieval history is helpful for thinking about the present, the continuity of patriarchal structures, crusading rhetoric, gendered nature of labor, leadership models, and more,” Staples said. “History courses teach students historical empathy and knowledge that helps them become engaged citizens.”

Staples, a St. Cloud, Minn., native, knew she wanted to study history after her own experience in her first survey-level world history course at the University of Minnesota, Morris.

She says she remembers being surprised because, on one particular day, her professor was using coins to teach about Chinese history, helping the class understand the flow of goods, trade, and exchange in China at the time.

“I remember being surprised because she didn’t want us to plot a timeline, which I was used to doing for history classes. She just sat up there and said ‘Why is this relevant? How does studying this ancient Chinese civilization help us to understand our place in the world today?’” Staples said.

“That was it. I knew from then on that history was totally fascinating, and that’s why I wanted to do it,” she said.

In addition, Staples was the recipient of both the Eberly College Outstanding Teaching Award and the WVU Foundation Award for Outstanding Teaching in 2012.

Recipients of the Caperton Award receive $5,000 in professional development funding, which faculty may use for anything from classroom materials to travel expenses.

In June, Staples attended the Seventeenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Genders, and Sexualities at Hofstra University, to which she was able to apply some of her Caperton Award funding.

“I provided a comment on a panel and attended a number of thought-provoking sessions,” Staples said of the event. It was a rich and rewarding experience and is a terrific conference.”

The Caperton Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Writing was established by former West Virginia Governor Gaston Caperton to award faculty who demonstrate a commitment to improvement in writing.

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