56 Engaging in Constructive Dialogue | Kate Knutson

My life and work at Gustavus reflect the values inherent in our Mission Statement.   As my teaching record demonstrates, I am committed to advancing a liberal arts approach to education.  I value the interdisciplinary nature of my field of study and work to incorporate an interdisciplinary and international approach to what I teach.  This shines through in my courses in the ways I draw upon research and readings from fields such as sociology, communication studies, religion, gender studies, history, economics, and psychology and in the ways I help students explore international topics in courses such as Analyzing Politics, Interest Groups, The Presidency, and U.S. Congress.  My courses seek to model and teach intellectual diversity and critical thinking as students engage in controversial and value-laden questions facing this nation.  My commitment to helping students develop the skills necessary to engage in constructive dialogue has only strengthened during my years here.  Dr. Will Freiert wrote in his introduction to Seven Liberal Arts and Counting: A Faculty Symposium, “When all is said and done, our mission here is to wake students up to the joys of wonder, the rigors of thinking, and the responsibilities of integrity.”  This statement certainly reflects my personal mission at Gustavus both in and out of the classroom.

A second distinctive feature of Gustavus is that it is a residential college.  As my five-plus year service in Residential Life indicates, I value this dimension of the College.  So much of the learning students experience on this campus happens in the residence halls.  From learning how to negotiate uncomfortable situations to facing diversity in close quarters, I have had the unique opportunity to help students grow and develop in their personal lives as well as in their academic lives.

Finally, Gustavus is an institution committed to nurturing a “mature understanding of the Christian faith.”  Though I do not teach in the Religion Department or serve in the Chaplains Office, I perceive myself to play a role in this aspect of the mission as well.  My research, which focuses predominantly on the role of the religious left, helps advances a more nuanced role of religion in the public sphere.  Out of the classroom, my service to Proclaim allows me to be accessible to students who are struggling with matters of faith and to help model appropriate expressions of faith on campus.  I have also had the opportunity to give three chapel homilies, which provided me with another venue for influencing students in this area.

As the Mission Statement articulates, “the purpose of a Gustavus education is to help its students attain their full potential as persons, to develop in them a capacity and passion for lifelong learning, and to prepare them for fulfilling lives of leadership and service in society.”  This statement accurately characterizes my approach to my work over the past five years, work that is even more fulfilling given my own sense of calling to the task.