It takes scholarship, professionalism, solid teaching and commitment to community to be considered for the Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award. Kathleen Garces-Foley, a professor of religion at Marymount University, is one of two Virginia professors to be honored with the award in the 2012 Rising Star category.
"We’re very excited, we pride ourselves on quality teaching and it’s wonderful to be recognized," said Carolyn Oxenford, director of the Marymount Center for Teaching Excellence. "We were so impressed with what she has done, hopefully she will be the first of many."
The General Assembly, Governor and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia established the awards in 1986 to honor Virginia faculty from universities across the commonwealth. Every year 12 recipients are selected, with a Rising Star category that provides an outlet for younger faculty to be recognized.
"I’ve always know she was a top notch scholar; she’s finally getting her proper dues," said Anthony Garces-Foley, Kathleen’s husband and a professor of education at Marymount University. "When the larger community of scholars recognizes your work, you know you’ve made it."
In 2007 Kathleen Garces-Foley published "Crossing the Ethnic Divide: The Multiethnic Church on a Mission," a work that tackles issues related to integration in church congregations.
"There’s a push toward greater mixing in churches that reflects diversity, and people may not understand the difficulty and tension that arises," said Garces-Foley. "When a homogenous congregation becomes diverse there may be a push back. Ministers are wise to recognize there is a loss, people mourn and move on."
According to Garces-Foley, reasons for integration often occur on a practical level, as churches consolidate because of economic necessity rather than by choice.
"I have to be creative and bring religion alive."
— Kathleen Garces-Foley
Multiethnic classrooms are standard at Marymount University, and Garces-Foley unpacks the issues with students by maintaining an open classroom environment where discussions of sensitive topics can be addressed freely.
"My courses are religiously diverse, students are required to step outside their comfort zones when they do their field studies. Maybe a student has never held a Koran or the Book of Mormon," said Garces-Foley. "Religions explain suffering in different ways, so I’ll have students write a condolence card. I have to be creative and bring religion alive."