Kathleen Smythe named Teacher of the Year

May 4, 2009

Kathleen R. Smythe, assistant professor of history at Xavier University, has been named the Bishop Fenwick Teacher of the Year by the Xavier chapter of Alpha Sigma Nu, the Jesuit honor society. The Bishop Fenwick Teacher of the Year Award is given to a professor who has a profound impact on a wide range of students. It was presented by Brett Simmons, vice president of Alpha Sigma Nu. Alpha Sigma Nu was established at Xavier in 1939. ASN has awarded the Bishop Fenwick Teacher of the Year Award since 1980. Since then, thirty-one exemplary Xavier professors have been honored.

A resident of Madeira, Smythe has been teaching at Xavier since 1997. She earned a BA from The College of Wooster and her MA and PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her areas of expertise are African history and colonial history.  She teaches two semesters of introductory African history and a wide variety of upper-level courses including: African Women, History of South Africa, the U.S. and Liberia, History without Documents, Africa Since 1945, and Globalization (with colleagues in Economics and Theology).

Smythe teaches African history at both the introductory and upper levels. Her book, Fipa Families: Catholic Evangelization and Social Reproduction in Nkansi, Ufipa, 1880-1960 (2006) and articles in The Journal of Religious History (1999) and The Journal of Women’s History (2007) and several edited book collections explore religious and socioeconomic changes of the colonial period in Tanzania (East Africa), particularly the relationships that Catholic missionaries and Fipa families forged. More recently, she has been researching, writing and teaching about the role of global processes and ideologies in Africa, including the role of development aid and the ideology of development generally.

Smythe also co-directs the Ethics/Religion and Society program and co-chairs the Sustainability Committee on campus. The Sustainability Committee is charged with overseeing the campus’ move toward reducing its carbon footprint and eventually reaching carbon neutrality. “Sustainability work, in my view, is directly related to my more academic work,” Smythe says. “Our globe’s current significant economic equalities (clearly manifest in much of Africa) are caused by many of the same forces that have lead us to the brink of ecological collapse. Increasingly, my work and writing is at the intersection of these two fields.”

Smythe, her husband and their two children spend a great deal of time hiking, biking, gardening and working on a nearby farm as CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members. They feed animals, milk cows, and weed vegetables. In addition, they raise layer chickens and vegetables and fruit in their suburban yard.