University of Minnesota Morris Archivist and Associate Professor of History Stephen Gross has earned the 2019 UMN Morris Alumni Association Teaching Award. Gross stands out among peers for his commitment to undergraduate teaching and learning.
On teaching undergraduates
When it comes to teaching undergrads, Gross says it's all about being surprised. Today's students, he says, are particularly full of that: they're more intersectional, more intentional and aware, than those before them. And to serve them well, he says, one must embrace uncertainty.
"One aspect of doing history is being surprised, and it's how I think about teaching history, too," says Gross. "I'm interested in people who are betwixt and between because they're negotiating so many things, and anything can happen. This generation of students is so much like that."
On mentoring students
Nominators say Gross has an impressive record as a respectful, dedicated, and influential listener who empowers students to pursue their own interests. According to Gross, the mark of a good mentor is their willingness to be honest and generous with their time and experience. A first-generation college student, Gross has a commitment to helping students navigate the academy that comes from lived understanding.
"When I look back on my career, I often seem to have fallen through cracks," he says. "In a way, I try to compensate for that.
Much of the mentoring Gross does is in his role as campus archivist. There he works with student interns and alumni volunteers to build understanding of public storytelling and the factors that complicate it. Gross has turned the archives into what he calls "a laboratory for doing social and local history," a move that resonates with student researchers.
"Dr. Gross goes out of his way to answer my questions," says Lauren Solkowski '20, who works with Gross in the archives, researching American Indian Boarding School history in Minnesota. "He is a wonderful mentor who has helped me grow as a student and researcher."
Gross will receive his award at the 28th Annual Faculty and Staff Recognition Dinner on Tuesday, April 23.
Gross is associate professor of history and archivist at UMN Morris. He holds a PhD and a BA from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. His expertise includes American social history, history of American immigration, rural history, history of religion in America, and Minnesota history.
About the UMMAA Teaching Award
The University of Minnesota Morris Alumni Association established the UMMAA Teaching Award in 1997 to honor individual faculty members for outstanding contributions to undergraduate education. Learn more at alumni.morris.umn.edu.