Kate Aguilar Wins Swenson-Bunn Award

The history assistant professor was cited for her character, achievement, and work with students in and out of the classroom.
Posted on May 17th, 2023 by

History Assistant Professor Kate Aguilar was presented with the Swenson-Bunn Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence during the Honors Day convocation on May 6.

“I was very surprised when they first said my name,” Aguilar said. “I only heard ‘Kate’, and there are many wonderful Kates on our campus. And so I got pretty emotional pretty quickly; it went from surprise to feeling deeply humbled.”

With nominations from the student body, the Swenson-Bunn Award is given to a member of the faculty who they deem is an example of excellence inside the classroom and out, in character and achievement. The award is presented in memory of two Gustavus students and members of the Student Senate, Greg Swenson and Holly Bunn, who were tragically killed in a car accident in 1989.

“A lot of what students said made these [nominated] teachers particularly exceptional is their willingness to care about you as a person more than just a student,” said Delaney Bluhm, Co-President of the Student Senate, which collected all nominations and chose this year’s recipient. “Kate makes students feel like people, and she’s really willing to sit down and talk with you if you’re having struggles about anything in life.”

This dedication to students is seen in Aguilar’s participation in inclusive teaching initiatives across campus. She’s worked with the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and the Center for Inclusive Excellence, among others, to learn as much as she can about students’ experiences on campus. “I’m constantly reading stuff in the Chronicle of Higher Education. I’m constantly reading good teaching practices. I’m constantly thinking about what each generation may care about and may need,” Aguilar said. “We know that those are broad conversations, and each person is different, but I try to be really up on what’s going on in the academic world.”

She credits her colleagues and the whole Gustavus community for creating an environment that rewards this type of approach. “This is the most inclusive community I’ve ever worked in,” she said. “I feel deeply supported by my colleagues. We have incredible conversations, there are people who are always willing to read my work, to talk through ideas with me or offer feedback on my syllabi. I have had that experience among the larger community—not just faculty, but staff as well. So, it’s really important to me to then mirror a sense of that for our students.”


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Luc Hatlestad


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