New College is pleased to announce that Dr. Alexandra Guerson (Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, International Foundation Program and Coordinator of New One: Learning without Border) is the recipient of the 2020-21 June Larkin Award for Pedagogical Development. This award provides for a half-course release to be dedicated to the development of innovative pedagogy or educational technology for use in classroom, community or field settings, and/or online teaching and learning.

Guerson is receiving the award for her proposed project “Creating a Community of Care in an Online Course.”  The overall goal of the project is to develop a deployable Quercus template that can be adapted for different courses and that would provide instructors with a formal approach to creating a community of care in an online or hybrid course. The template will be based on a combination of personal practice, research of existing literature, and student focus groups. It will also take into account mindfulness practices, exercises that enhance mental wellbeing, and communication strategies to enhance social presence in the course and improve relations between instructor and students and among students.  The project will involve Guerson working directly with other New College instructors and providing them a package of tools through that could be easily updated at the end of each year.

The selection committee noted the timeliness of the project, the articulation with university and New College commitments to mental health, the ways the project was carefully embedded in on-going literature, and the detailed implementation plan, linked to the June Larkin Award’s goals of supporting a wide range of courses and instructors, in ways sustained over time.

Guerson has a PhD in History and Jewish Studies from the University of Toronto (2012) and undergraduate degrees in both Law (University of Rio de Janeiro) and History (Concordia University, Montreal, Canada). Having taught at New College’s International Programs for the past ten years and as the coordinator of New One: Learning without Borders for the past four years, the needs of first-year students have been foremost on her mind since the beginning of her teaching career.

Collaboration and community-building have formed the core of her work as a teacher and scholar.  She has actively promoted the benefits of collaborative research and writing in the humanities through her collaboration with Dana Wessell Lightfoot. Together they have won a SSHRC Insight Grant for their work on Jewish and Christian women in Catalonia from 1350-1450, published five articles since 2018, and co-edited with Michelle Armstrong-Partida the book Women and Community in Medieval and Early Modern Iberia (University of Nebraska Press, 2020), which was a co-winner of the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women and Gender Collaborative project award.

Guerson brings that collaborative mindset to her work in the International Foundation Program and New One, both of which require strong collaboration across courses and among staff and faculty. As a teacher, she aims to foster a positive environment in the classroom to encourage engagement and collaboration among her students, often through the use of digital tools. 

In the before times, she could often be found knitting in the cafés of Toronto, where she would willingly tell anyone who would like to hear everything about the merits of breed-specific yarn and the origins and taste-profiles of particular coffee beans.

Congratulations Alexandra!