May 2, 2019

2019 Murphy Award recipient: Yvonne Pitts

Yvonne Pitts Yvonne Pitts, recipient of the 2019 Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award in Memory of Charles B. Murphy. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons) Download image

Five professors have received the 2019 Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award in Memory of Charles B. Murphy. This week, Purdue Today will feature profiles on each of the recipients. Today's profile features Yvonne Pitts, associate professor in the Department of History.

Years at Purdue: I started at Purdue in Fall 2007.

Teaching interests: I have many teaching interests. I love teaching constitutional history, legal history and queer history. My classes are often cross-listed as American Studies or with Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS). I’ve taught constitutional history, race and the law, the history of sexuality, and the history of insanity.

Teaching in Transformative Texts courses as part of the Cornerstone Integrated Liberal Arts certificate program: Teaching Transformative Texts has been a wonderful experience. I introduce texts as literature, art, and from historical and contemporary viewpoints. Exposing students to different texts and doing the analytical work around them leads students to think, write and speak in new ways. Once students become invested in the text, I design assignments that develop specific communications skills developed around a shared learning experience.

Using study abroad innovatively to provide learning experiences: My study abroad program, Sex, History, and the Cities, which I co-teach with Lowell Kane, the director of the LGBTQ Center, builds a bridge between academic learning and student life. We take a comparative approach and integrate transnational queer history into social justice awareness and service learning.

Pitts' goals as a professor: I want to continue to innovate and to challenge my students. I hope to continue developing transformative experiences through study abroad, teaching in Cornerstone and in all my classes.  I’m working on my next book researching vice regulation in Civil War-era Nashville. I’m looking forward to incorporating my research from that project into my teaching.

The important lesson Pitts wants students to take away from her classes: I want my students to keep asking challenging questions about the world around them. Think carefully about evidence and arrive at your own informed opinions.

What Pitts' students say: Dr. Pitts takes intentional time in and out of class to mentor and enrich the learning experience for students. Deeply involved in campus initiatives to promote diversity of thought. … Dr. Pitts is bar none the best professor I have had while at Purdue. She taught me how to contribute something to the historical conversation by drawing conclusions from history, rather than merely summarizing it. She challenges students to critically examine the world around them, and to actively pursue knowledge and understanding rather that passively collect information. … Professor Pitts cares about her students first and foremost, and you feel her passion for teaching as a student. She created an amazing course that has thought-provoking readings, impactful writing assignments and wonderful discussion. She includes everyone in class discussion and ensures that all opinions and perspectives are welcome at the table in the discussion. A wonderful course!

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