Dr. Margaret Cotter-Lynch, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Durant
2018 Medal for Excellence in Regional University/Community College Teaching
Dr. Margaret Cotter-Lynch, the recipient of the Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Teaching at a Regional University/Community College, is a professor of English and Honors Program director at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. She is a scholar on literary theory, Medieval Latin grammar and early Christian theology, but at Southeastern she is best known as an encouraging mentor who helps students discover and pursue their potential.
“My best friend coined the term ‘parentessor’ to describe what I do for a living: half parent, half professor,” said Cotter-Lynch, who serves as an adviser to more than 100 English and Honors students. Many of her students come from rural communities and are first-generation college students. “For me, teaching is not confined to the classroom, nor is it about merely conveying subject-area content. It is about contributing to students’ growth and success as humans.”
Being a good human requires participation in community, she says. To that end, she has helped design a new Honors curriculum that focuses on trans-disciplinary learning and community engagement. “This is a fancy way of saying that a student’s entire educational experience should coalesce around the goal of making them a contributing member of a strong and functioning community,” she said. The curriculum also focuses applying what a student learns in one course to other classes and to the outside world. Cotter-Lynch co-teaches a trans-disciplinary English and history course to help students learn to view content from another disciplinary perspective and consider how it applies to their own lives.
“Margaret’s warm personality and inclusive pedagogy make class compelling,” says former student Hannah Jones, who credits Cotter-Lynch with helping her secure a scholarship to pursue a Ph.D. in history in New York. “In her upper level courses, we spent most of the time engaging in circular group discussion, extrapolating on ideas found in texts we read for the week and debating different perspectives.”
Faculty Senate Chair F. Daniel Althoff said Cotter-Lynch’s courses are widely praised by her students and that her recent appointment as Honors Program director has reinvigorated the program, with enrollment skyrocketing. She was selected by students and faculty in 2015 and 2017 as Southeastern’s Professor of the Year.
Dewey Briscoe, a non-traditional student, said he is the first in his family to receive a college degree, thanks to Dr. Cotter-Lynch. “No matter how many times I wanted to throw in the towel, she would never let me. She knew what I was capable of and continued to challenge me and hold me to those standards.”