Heather McCauley: The College of Social Science 2023 Outstanding Teacher Award winner

April 12, 2023 - Brandon Drain

Heather McCauley

The College of Social Science awarded Heather McCauley, ScD, with the 2023 Outstanding Teacher Award. This award recognizes a current faculty member in the College who takes pride in and is committed to quality teaching, and who demonstrates substantial, continuing involvement in undergraduate education. Nominations are submitted by chairs and directors with input from current students.

“It’s incredibly special,” said McCauley on receiving the award. “The fact that it was a process that began with my students meant a lot.”

The long-lasting impact McCauley has on her students played a pivotal role in her receiving this award. Her pragmatic, problem solving approach to teaching -- combined with an open mind, primed for mixed methods research – allowed her to push the boundaries of her role of as a teacher. Something that was received as infectious and inspiring to her students. “I tend to be a scholar who pushes the boundaries of my discipline,” said McCauley. “I often teach research methods, and my goal in those courses is to help students realize that research is accessible to them. That they can use research to make social change.”

With a background in social epidemiology, McCauley has a strategic vision to create and sustain social change through her work – both as a researcher and a teacher. “I was put on this earth to prevent violence and to support survivors of violence,” said McCauley. Also, being a part of the MSU School of Social Work has given McCauley insight on how to integrate values within research – giving a more interpersonal feel to her social science research. “One of the reasons I’m so proud to be a faculty member in the School of Social Work is because it’s a values-based profession,” said McCauley. “I think about how we can incorporate those social work values in our research. I hope my students learn how they can ground their research in their values.”

McCauley uses a team science model in her work, giving her the opportunity to collaborate with a myriad of talented, diverse faculty members, all from different disciplines. She attributes those relationships to her success and growth as a professional. “Doing this work with other people has made the work more meaningful,” said McCauley. “You will never see me write a single-authored paper because I truly believe my perspectives are strengthened by bouncing them off of others’ perspectives.”

This award also comes with an invitation to be the Michigan State University College of Social Science Faculty Commencement keynote speaker at the 2023 Spring Commencement. This grants McCauley an opportunity to thank her students and colleagues for the award, as well as to congratulate and encourage those she’s taught and mentored along the way. “The phrase ‘lift you rise’ is something we use on our team,” said McCauley. “Recognizing every time each one of us is elevated, it is our duty to reach back and help the next generation. I’ve benefitted from those kinds of mentors, and I hope to be that for my students.”