Corlett wins Kroepsch Award for teaching excellence


Nominated by students and alums who describe his classroom as a “town meeting” where the moderator respects all viewpoints, faculty member William Corlett has received the College’s Ruth M. and Robert H. Kroepsch Award for Excellence in Teaching.

“Teaching is about community building,” says Corlett, professor of political science. “And community building teaches students and professors the importance of possessing a generous spirit.”

Corlett joined the Bates faculty in 1981 and was promoted to full professor in 1995. He is a graduate of Allegheny College and earned his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Pittsburgh.

Corlett’s Bates courses address the history of political thought and contemporary theory and activism, while his writing and research reflect a commitment to social justice and economic democracy. He has published Community Without Unity: A Politics of Derridian Extravagance (Duke University Press, 1989, 1993) and Class Action: Reading Labor, Theory, and Value (Cornell University Press, 1998), and his current scholarship focuses on building inclusive communities by confronting the problem of poverty.

Teaching politically charged material, Corlett earned kudos from nominators for his fairness. “Every class with Corlett felt like a town meeting,” said one. “It was total involvement of every student in a very open conversation.”

In his one-on-one work with students, Corlett won special praise for guiding seniors through the rigors of the Bates thesis experience. “I was an adviser-less soul my senior year,” recalls Mark Annotto, a 2001 graduate who is now a senior analyst with MTV Networks in New York City. “Bill Corlett took me under his wing and turned out to be a most supportive, understanding and motivational adviser. He was with me every step of the way, regardless of the fact that my thesis statement went against every political and social belief he had. He pushed me to explore my beliefs and convictions in a way I had never even conceived.”

Corlett says the Kroepsch award embodies the generous spirit he tries to instill in his students. “It’s hard for privileged people — like college professors! — to receive gifts,” he says. “We are happier doing things for others. So I am just now becoming comfortable with the idea that my students are passing a gift back to me.”

The late Robert H. Kroepsch ’33, LL.D ’71, established in 1985 the Ruth M. and Robert H. Kroepsch Endowed Fund for an award to a member of the faculty, “in recognition of outstanding performance as a teacher during the previous 12-month period.” The honor, which carries a $5,000 award, recognizes a faculty member’s ability to stimulate student interest in the subject, foster desire for further learning, help students understand subject matter in a broad context, and encourage a high level of student performance, among other criteria.

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