Faculty member earns Northeast graduate school faculty award

March 31, 2009

The Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools (NAGS) is honoring Penn State Harrisburg faculty member Peter Kareithi for what his students and colleagues in the School of Humanities have known all along – he is a remarkable teacher.

An associate professor of humanities and communications, Kareithi has been named winner of the prestigious 2009 NAGS Master’s Teaching Award, presented to a faculty member in the Northeast in recognition of excellence and creativity in the teaching of graduate students at the master’s level. The award will be formally presented April 3 during the organization’s annual meeting at the University of Delaware.

NAGS is one of four regional affiliates of the National Council of Graduate Schools with a membership of 101 U.S. and 21 Canadian institutions of higher education from 10 states, the District of Columbia and six provinces. Members include Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Penn, Cornell, Syracuse, Boston College, Temple, Georgetown, Rochester Institute of Technology, Maryland and Penn State.

“Overwhelmed” at the news of the award, Kareithi says, “I am happy my style of teaching is acknowledged. It’s what I call a personally engaged student-centered approach in which I try to get to know students not just in the classroom, but in their lives outside of class. That way I get to learn where their academics and personal lives intersect. We need to break down power barriers between teacher and student and although it can be risky, it is also powerfully productive.”

Kareithi adds that his winning this award is the result of the type of environment for teaching and learning fostered at Penn State Harrisburg. “The environment truly allows faculty and students to examine issues from multiple perspectives. It’s an environment which encourages faculty to view seriously different ways of teaching and learning, and even take risks. And due to the interdisciplinary nature of our college’s curriculum, faculty and students from across disciplines can learn from each other. Another help has been the indispensable mentoring from my highly capable and experienced senior faculty colleagues since my arrival on campus in 2001."

Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies Marian Walters, commenting on the honor, says, “Having faculty from Penn State Harrisburg receive significant national awards is a strong reflection of the high quality of our faculty and their achievements. We at Penn State Harrisburg have always known that quality, but recognition from outside the University is an important demonstration that their achievements and abilities are also recognized by the larger community within their academic fields.

Students are quick to point out Kareithi’s contributions in the classroom. Typical comments about his courses include “important,” “relevant,” “exciting,” and “challenging.” Bringing a unique blend of in-depth cultural knowledge, theoretical sophistication, and total commitment to teaching, Kareithi’s “teaching style inspires advanced critical thinking and a desire to understand and analyze perspectives outside the Western perspectives familiar to most of our graduate students. Dr. Kareithi’s impact on our students is electrifying,” a colleague says.

Also the winner of the 2009 Penn State Harrisburg Award for Excellence in Teaching, Kareithi is not a stranger to national and even international accolades. A native of Kenya, he was named that nation’s journalist of the year in 1980, best investigative reporter in 1981, and best reporter in 1983. He also won the 1990 international Lillian Hellman-Dashiell Hammett Award presented by the Fund for Free Expression, which honors writers worldwide for their courage in defense of free expression. Past winners have included poet and former Czech president Vaclav Havel.

The Hellman-Hammett honor came as a result of his efforts as editor and publisher of the controversial Kenyan investigative weekly newsmagazine, Financial Review, in the late 1980s. He was arrested and detained by the government on numerous occasions before the magazine was eventually banned for exposing corruption and the abuse of power. He then went on to serve six years as an editor with The Republican in Springfield, Mass., and earned his Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Prior to coming to Penn State Harrisburg, Kareithi had taught at American University, the University of New Hampshire and Ithaca College.

  • Peter Kareithi

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated January 09, 2015