Katherine Kearns, PhD

Educator and author about the experiences of graduate students.

Contact me for speaking inquiries.

Since 2005, Dr. Katie Kearns has worked for Indiana University’s teaching center and graduate school. Her workshops and talks include identity development, building a mentor network, preparing a statement of teaching philosophy, communities of practice, and PhD careers within higher education. Kearns has co-edited two books, Teaching as if Learning Matters (Indiana University Press, 2022) and Higher Education Careers Beyond the Professoriate (Purdue University Press, forthcoming) and published in educational development journals. She received a PhD in ecology and taught biology at the University of Georgia and Boston University.

Kearns facilitates professional development opportunities for graduate students that transcend the hidden rules for success in academia, offering possibilities to clarify and cultivate a deeper, integrated sense of purpose during their studies. She leads workshops and gives talks for graduate students, staff, and faculty drawing from over 20 years of experience in instructional consulting, educational development, and graduate student development at both public and private research universities. Frequent topics include pedagogy courses, learning communities, reflective practice, mentoring, intersectionality, identity development, meaning-making, wellbeing, preparing future faculty, and PhD career versatility.

Kearns received a PhD in ecology from the University of Georgia where she taught biology and population ecology. For five years, she taught biology at Boston University before joining Indiana University’s Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning in 2005. As an instructional consultant, she coached graduate students and led workshops and learning communities on course design, active learning, teaching statements, critical feminist pedagogy, and scholarship of teaching and learning. In 2019, she joined the University Graduate School as assistant vice provost for student development, contributing to broader graduate student professional development efforts both on the Bloomington campus and nationally as part of the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning. She has represented graduate student concerns within the Professional and Organizational Development Network as a committee member and currently as an advisory board member.

The title of the book is at the top in white font with an orange-yellow banner. The image of the book cover is an overhead shot of a table with five students seated at it. They have laptops and papers around them.

Praise for Teaching as if Learning Matters:

“The editors of Teaching as if Learning Matters have convened a group of experts -who happen to be graduate students- to use their collective voice to both contextualize and challenge academic discourse about college teaching and graduate student development. These experts are at once teachers and learners. In these chapters, they generously make public their own processes of becoming – becoming not only postsecondary educators, but becoming the reflective scholar-leaders we need to tackle some of the most pressing cultural, social and environmental challenges facing communities around the world.” ~Melissa McDaniels, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“Blending personal narratives and critical synthesis, this book makes a significant and novel contribution to the literature on both graduate education and SoTL. Teaching as if Learning Matters will challenge and inspire anyone interested in graduate students, new faculty, SoTL, or teaching in higher education.” ~Peter Felten, Elon University

“…The book reminds us that good teachers are always becoming.” ~Nancy Chick, Rollins College

Recently, Kearns has co-edited two separate collections of critical reflexive essays by authors who look at and through the graduate student experience. In Teaching as if Learning Matters: Pedagogies of Becoming by Next-Gen Faculty (Indiana University Press, 2022), graduate students reflect on the influence of communities and mentorship in their developing self-concepts as teacher-scholars. The volume exemplifies Kearns’ research philosophy of creating microclimates, communities, and counter-spaces for graduate students to set the research agenda and tell their stories of belonging and becoming, a praxis that began transgressive learning communities for graduate students in 2015. Candid and conversational, the contributing authors tell stories about how they nurtured compassionate curiosity about their students, their own teaching practice as graduate students, and the larger value of their teaching experiences to their professional careers. In Constellations of Possibilities: Higher Educational Careers Beyond the Professoriate (Purdue University Press, forthcoming) contributing authors write to PhD student-readers about employment in “alt-ac” academic roles including student affairs, academic affairs, equity offices, libraries, and educational development. Although the volume offers insights into career possibilities beyond the inside/outside academic job binary, it is not a how-to guide for a back-up job plan for PhDs. Rather, the authors speak to the viability, flexibility, and applicability of their advanced training to these roles, their highlights and frustrations in addressing institutional challenges, the deliberate balance they navigate in their personal and professional lives, and their tempered wisdom for readers considering professions with intention.

Throughout her teaching, mentoring, and research activities, Kearns nurtures research and workshop collaborations with graduate students, staff, postdoctoral scholars, and faculty. She facilitates co-creation of spaces of belonging and care for graduate students within academic environments of austerity, critique, and stress. Through her co-authored publications, workshops, and talks, she helps to amplify the voices of graduate students, especially the experiences of those from historically excluded identity groups, and she advocates for humane and equitable working conditions, training experiences, and mentoring relationships for graduate students in US higher education. Most of all, she hopes for graduate students to leave their workplace each day with their wholeness as human beings intact.

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