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Distinguished Teaching Award recipient

July 1, 2009


Sally J. Kenney.

Sally Kenney is director of the Humphrey Institute's Center on Women and Public Policy.

Photo: Patrick O'Leary

Distinguished teacher Sally Kenney guides students on putting policy into practice

By Chris Coughlan-Smith

"Rather than teach students what to think, I teach them how to think. I challenge each student and welcome dissenters. Rather than teach students what to know, I teach them how to find what they need to know."

As a public affairs faculty member, Sally Kenney believes in putting her research, teaching, and advising into practice in the world. Among the courses she has created and taught is one that puts students to work on the boards of local nonprofits. Kenney also bridges learning and public policy by serving on the U.S. Supreme Court Gender Fairness Task Force and by having developed the Institute's Feminist Leadership Fellows program and the Women's Legislators Retreat. Numerous students report that they chose Minnesota because of the Center on Women and Public Policy, which Kenney directs. One says that Kenney and the Center are models for "how to make contributions for the public good."

A recent Humphrey Institute Teacher of the Year, Kenney creates a classroom culture that is challenging, questioning, and supportive of risk-taking. One of her students says, "I cannot overestimate Sally’s ability to boost her students' confidence in their own intellect and opinions."

As the Institute's Social Policy Area head, Kenny has developed a new teaching case program that has influenced colleagues and led to numerous student case studies being published, adding immeasurably to the literature in her discipline.

Another former student sums up Kenney's broad reach: "Professor Kenney has…taught me through example and education what it means to be a scholar of policy and practice, to effectively attend to both the development and implications of scholarly theory, and to be responsive to the individual to whom these theories must speak."