Katherine O’Flaherty, Honors Faculty Fellow in Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University on the Downtown Phoenix campus, is known among her colleagues and students as a committed educator and mentor.
“There is no core Barrett faculty member more universally respected by her 45 faculty peers at Barrett than Dr. O’Flaherty. She is a fierce advocate for women and other underrepresented groups, and she inspires everyone – students, staff and faculty alike – to advocate for themselves and their passion projects that improve the lives of others,” six of her colleagues wrote in a letter to nominate O’Flaherty for the 2022 Faculty Women’s Association Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award.
She recently was given the award, which recognizes faculty members who have demonstrated outstanding mentorship to students and other faculty members, particularly women and underrepresented groups.
“She is such a wonderful mentor and colleague that when she ran for the leadership position of associate faculty chair in August 2021, she received such an overwhelming majority of the votes that it became clear even those who ran against her had voted for her! We deeply appreciate her competent, selfless leadership that spans multiple campuses and units within Barrett,” O'Flaherty's colleagues added.
Since joining the Barrett Honors College faculty in 2013, O’Flaherty has taught 26 different and distinct classes – an average of three new courses per year – served on 40 honors thesis committees and advised more than 50 Flinn Scholars on community engagement projects.
Her special topics courses have included four Barrett study abroad programs (Morocco, Ireland, Canada and England-Scotland), during which she mentored students on intercultural competence and global engagement.
She has created seminars for Barrett students on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix, Tempe and West campuses. She has built mentoring into her Maryvale Community History class, a repeatable one-credit seminar in which students learn historical research skills and oral history methodologies, then go on to conduct qualitative oral history interviews with Maryvale community members.
“Ever since the first day of class, I could tell that Dr. O’Flaherty loved what she taught and had a passion for teaching and mentoring students. I instantly connected with her after she shared her story as a first-generation student and how she became involved with the Maryvale One Square Mile Initiative. Given that she is a first-generation woman, like myself, I feel very grateful to have her as my professor and mentor, especially since she has been one of my greatest role models. I have never met someone so supportive and helpful,” said Azucena “Suzie” Villalobos Lopez, a student in the Maryvale Community History course.
“She’s allowed me to grow as a scholar through her mentorship and her support for my thesis on Maryvale’s oral history. All in all, she has been an integral part of my undergraduate experience, and I honestly would not be where I am without her,” Villalobos Lopez added.
Casey Fetkenhour, a student and teaching assistant in O’Flaherty’s The Human Event course, said “Dr. O’Flaherty is always there to answer my questions and continuously encourages me to keep growing my thoughts. I would not be the student or person I am today without the mentorship and guidance of Dr. O’Flaherty.”
O’Flaherty has unofficially served as a leader of the Barrett downtown faculty since fall 2016, when she became the most senior member of the Honors Faculty Fellows there and received that year’s Barrett Faculty Award for Excellence in Service.
She has served on or chaired all downtown campus Honors Faculty Fellow searches since she came to ASU, and then mentored every downtown faculty new hire.
Barrett has a two-year faculty mentoring program for new honors faculty hires at all ranks. O’Flaherty’s service as the official faculty mentor to six faculty includes observing classes and providing feedback, being observed by junior faculty, providing feedback on syllabi and pedagogical concerns, and connecting junior faculty to the resources they need to succeed.
She has gone far beyond these base expectations by continuing to facilitate downtown mentoring meetings every semester, even after the program’s official end, and similarly meeting weekly with junior faculty in the newly developed T.W. Lewis Center for Personal Development during their initial year.
“Katherine has consistently encouraged me to find my voice and use it, a task not always easy for women junior faculty. I have turned to her for guidance and clarification countless times as I navigate my first few years at ASU,” said Jessica Sturgess, a lecturer in the T.W. Lewis Center for Personal Development at Barrett, The Honors College.
“While being on-boarded during a pandemic was overwhelming in numerous ways, Katherine has always been there with answers and insights. When you talk with her, you know you are receiving accurate, up-to-date and effective advice. In particular, she has been especially helpful in the development of my thesis pathway classes, offering to meet with my students to clarify best practices for oral history projects and serving as a second reader when students are struggling to make faculty connections. She demonstrates not only keen mentoring for faculty, but equally a desire to provide the best learning experiences possible for students,” Sturgess added.
Janelle Kappes, also a T.W. Lewis Center lecturer, also sings O’Flaherty’s praises.
“I have personally benefited tremendously from her mentoring. Not only has she mentored my efforts in the classroom, she also fiercely encouraged me to advocate for myself outside of the classroom,” Kappes said.
“Moreover, Dr. O’Flaherty provided me with tools, strategies and resources to advocate for myself as a junior faculty. Her support and advocacy for new and junior faculty is unparalleled. Time and time again, Dr. O’Flaherty has, without solicitation, written letters of support for me, volunteered to assist with curriculum development and class pedagogy, and carved time in her inordinately busy schedule to help me with a question or concern. As her mentee, I have gained numerous skills and strategies that have enhanced my own teaching and, more importantly, my students’ experiences in the classroom.”
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