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Catherine Denial


Catherine Denial

Mary Elizabeth Hand Bright and Edwin Winslow Bright Distinguished Professor of American History

2 East South Street

Galesburg, IL 61401



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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Mary Elizabeth Hand Bright and Edwin Winslow Bright Distinguished Professor of American History; Director of the Bright Institute at Knox College

Catherine Denial

General Interests
I've just finished the manuscript for a book called A Pedagogy of Kindness, forthcoming in 2024, which explores the discipline of teaching with compassion. People often confuse kindness with simply “being nice.”  But kindness requires that a commitment to justice be front and center in our teaching in order for us to co-create incredible learning opportunities with our students.

My historical research has focused on nineteen-century marriage, divorce, pregnancy, childbirth, and infancy among Native and non-Native communities in what we currently call Minnesota. By looking at interpersonal relationships, I’m able to gain a new perspective on who had what power in the region at any given moment, and offer new ways to think about Native resistance to American colonialism."

Years at Knox: 2005 to present

Ph.D., History, 2005, University of Iowa.
MA, History, 1996, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
B.A., (Hons), American Studies, 1994, University of Nottingham.

Teaching Interests
Women, Gender, and Sexuality; Native and Indigenous History; Pedagogy.

Full Curriculum Vitae - (PDF)

Personal Website

Selected Professional Accomplishments


Principal Investigator, “Pedagogies, Communities, and Practices of Care in the Academy after COVID-19,” a program officer’s grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Knox College, 2022. $150,000. 

Contributor, “Abolition for All Time,” a Humanities for All Times grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Knox College, 2022, $1,234,000.

Contributor, Sustaining the Humanities Through the American Rescue Plan Grant,

National Endowment for the Humanities, Knox College, 2021, $248,411.

Exceptional Achievement Award, Knox College, 2020.

Philip Green Wright/Lombard College Teaching Award Winner for Tenured Faculty, Knox College, 2019.

Faculty Innovation Grant from the Dan J. Logan Peace and Justice Studies Fund, Knox College, 2019, $4000.

American Historical Association, Eugene Asher Distinguished Teaching Award, 2018.

Knox College TRIO Program Outstanding Educator of the Year, 2018.

Selected for the Society of Historians of the Early American Republic’s Second-Book Writers’ Workshop, SHEAR Annual Meeting, 2018.

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship, American Philosophical Society, June-July, Philadelphia, PA, 2018, $3000.

FaCE Grant, with Katherine Tegtmeyer Pak, Adrienne Falcon, Emily A. Bowman, Eric Popkin, Javier Escandell, “Sharing Expertise in Community-Based Learning & Research Addressing Immigration,” Associated Colleges of the Midwest, 2017, $25,504.


Foreword, Designing for Care. Hybrid Pedagogy Inc, 2022.

“After the Great Pivot Should Come the Great Pause,” with Elizabeth Lehfeldt and Clarissa Sorensen-Unruh, The Chronicle of Higher Education, February 25, 2022,

“Everyone in Higher Ed Deserves Better Than They’re Getting Right Now,” EdSurge, December 2, 2021, 

“Time to Get Serious: Training Graduate Students in Teaching,” Teaching History: A Journal of Methods, 46:1 (2021): 29.

“Feminism, Pedagogy, and a Pandemic,” Journal of Women’s History, 33:1 (Spring 2021): 134-139.

“To Tweet or Not To Tweet,” Panorama, February 24, 2021,

“A Pedagogy of Kindness,” in Jesse Stommel, Chris Friend, and Sean Michael Morris, Critical Digital Pedagogy: A Collection. Washington, D.C.: Hybrid Pedagogy, Inc, 2020, 212-218.

“Ethics and the Practice of History,” in Ron Iphofen, ed. Handbook of Research Ethics and Scientific Integrity.  Cham, Switzerland: Springer Nature, 2020.

“Beginning Again: Online Pedagogy Sent My Teaching Back to Square One,” Eidolon, July 27, 2020,

“The Complexities of Certainty,” Guest Post, Just Visiting, Inside Higher Ed, April 26, 2020,

“New York,” Disability Acts, October 22, 2019,

“‘Mother of all the living’: Motherhood, Religion, and Political Culture at the Ojibwe Village of Fond du Lac, 1835-1839,” Early American Studies. 17:4 (Fall 2019): 443-473.

“A Pedagogy of Kindness,” Hybrid Pedagogy, August 15, 2019,

“How I Met My Mother: The Tale of an Unexpected Pregnancy,” Nursing Clio, Wednesday, June 5, 2019,

“The Privilege of Despair,” Nursing Clio, Monday, October 8, 2018,

"The Subjective Self: Teaching Student Historians to ask 'Who Am I?'," Syllabus. 5:2 (2016): 

Making Marriage: Husbands, Wives, and the American State in Dakota and Ojibwe Country. 

St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2013.

"Atoms, Honeycombs, and Fabric Scraps: Rethinking Timelines in the

Undergraduate Classroom," The History Teacher, 46:3 (May 2013): 415-434.


Keynote speaker, “A Pedagogy of Kindness,” University of Texas Permian Basin, April 10, 2023.

Keynote speaker, “A Pedagogy of Kindness,” Western Kentucky University, March 31, 2023.

Visiting speaker, “Building a Pedagogy of Kindness,” Georgia State University, February 17, 2023 (Virtual).

Plenary speaker, “A Pedagogy of Kindness,” AAC&U General Education, Pedagogy, and Assessment Conference, New Orleans, February 10, 2023.

Invited speaker, “Covid as a Mass-Disabling Event: A Pedagogy of Kindness for Pandemic Times,” University of Nottingham, UK, December 14, 2022.

Keynote speaker, “A Pedagogy of Kindness,” LaGuardia Community College-CUNY, September 7, 2022.

Session leader, “Rethinking Assignments,” LaGuardia Community College-CUNY, September 7, 2022.

Keynote speaker, “Student Engagement and High-Impact Practices,” Triton College, Chicago, Illinois, August 19, 2022.

Keynote speaker, “A Pedagogy of Kindness,” Northern Virginia Community College, Manassas Campus, August 17, 2022 (Virtual)

Workshop leader, “Building Community in the Humanities and Social Sciences,” Austin Peay State University, Tennessee, August 9, 2022.

Keynote speaker with Elizabeth Lehfeldt and Clarissa Sorensen-Unruh, “Pausing in Community,” Austin Peay State University, Tennessee, August 8, 2022.

Keynote speaker, “A Pedagogy of Kindness,” Academic Practice and Technology Conference, co-hosted by University College London, London School of Economics, and Imperial College, London, UK, June 24, 2022  (Virtual)

Keynote Speaker, Spring Faculty Conference, St Mary’s University of Minnesota, April 9, 2022 (Virtual)

Keynote Speaker, “The Origins of a Pedagogy of Kindness,” CUNY (system-wide), March 9, 2022  (Virtual)

Keynote Speaker, “Hands-On Humanities,” St Catherine’s University, Minnesota, March 8, 2022 (Virtual)

Keynote Speaker, Faculty Appreciation Month, National Louis University, February 25, 2022 (Virtual)

Invited Speaker, “The Possibilities of Teaching With Kindness,” Center for Research on Ethnicity in Society Speaker Series, Indiana University-Bloomington, February 24, 2022 (Virtual)

Keynote Speaker, “Hands-On Humanities: Critical Thinking and Doing,” University of Mississippi, February 15, 2022 (Virtual)

Keynote Speaker, Northern Illinois University Teaching Effectiveness Institute, January 13, 2022 (Virtual)

Keynote Speaker, Spring Faculty Conference, Juniata College, January 12, 2022 (Virtual)

Keynote Speaker, “To Kindly Go Where No One Has Gone Before,” Tarrant County College Connect Spring Faculty Conference, January 10, 2022 (Virtual)

Keynote Speaker, “A Pedagogy of Kindness,” Agnes Scott College, Georgia, January 6, 2022.

Keynote Speaker, Dallas College, National Distance Learning Week, (Virtual) November 11, 2021.

Guest Speaker, PSY 665: Teaching Practicum, Northern Arizona University (Virtual), 2021.

Keynote Speaker, Florida Southwestern Community College Summer Institute Series, Florida Southwestern Community College, June 21, 2021 (Virtual).

“Making the Grade: An Introduction to Ungrading,” LectureBreakers Summer Conference 2021, June 10, 2021 (Virtual).

“Pelagie Faribault’s Island: Marriage, Land, and Resistance in Nineteenth-Century Mni Sota Makoce,” Mendota After Hours, May 14, 2021 (Virtual).

Keynote Speaker, Fourth Biennial Teaching History Conference, University of California-Davis, May 8, 2021 (Virtual) 

Chair, “From Comics and Quilts to Websites and Poems: The Unessay as a

Unique and Empowering Pedagogical Tool,” Fourth Biennial Teaching History Conference, University of California-Davis, May 8., 2021(Virtual).

Keynote Speaker, “Issues of Equity and Ethics in the Technology-Enhanced Classroom,” American Historical Association Digital History Workshop, March 31, 2021 (Virtual).

“Decolonizing Museum Labels,” Digital Stories for Knowledge Equity, Socially Just Academia, January 26, 2021 (Virtual).

Workshop leader, “A Pedagogy of Kindness,” Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, January 21, 2021 (Virtual).

Keynote Speaker, “A Pedagogy of Kindness,” Teaching and Learning Symposium, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, January 14, 2021 (Virtual).

Workshop leader, “Creating Breathing Room for Our Students and Ourselves,” Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, December 17, 2020 (Virtual).

Fridays at Four, “Five Things I’ve Learned About Online Teaching,” November 13, 2020 (Virtual).

Guest Speaker, PSY 665: Teaching Practicum, Northern Arizona University, 2020 (Virtual)..

Lead Co-Facilitator with Gabrielle Raley, Introduction to Intergroup Dialogue (three-hour workshop) at Lake Forest College’s Diversity Summit, Lake Forest, Illinois, January 25, 2020.

Panelist, “Teaching Students How to Write History,” roundtable at the American Historical Association Annual Meeting, New York, NY, January 6, 2020.

Panelist and Panel Organizer, “I Got It!”: Primary Source Analysis and Formative Assessment in an Introductory-Level Classroom,” for the panel “What Are We Learning?: Innovative Assessments and Student Learning in College-Level History Classes.” Co-sponsored by the Teaching Division. American Historical Association annual meeting, Chicago, Illinois, January 3-6, 2019.

Chair, “Seven Weddings and a Funeral: Life, Death, Ritual, and Meaning in the Early Republic,” Society for Historians of the Early American Republic annual meeting, Cleveland, OH, July 19-22, 2018.

“Conceptions of Motherhood in Early Nineteenth-Century Ojibwe Country,” American Philosophical Society Brown Bag Lunch Series, Philadelphia, PA, July 3, 2018.

Co-organizer, Engage Immigration Conference, June 14-15, 2018, St Olaf College, Northfield, MN.

“An Undergraduate Perspective on Ethics,” Roundtable: Should Ethics Training Be Part of Historical Pedagogy? American Historical Association Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C., January 5, 2018. Remarks delivered in absentia due to a canceled flight owing to weather.

“The Iowa Women’s Archives as Virtual Classroom,” Symposium: The Iowa Women’s Archives at 25: The Feminist Impulse, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, November 11, 2017.

“Active Learning: A Teaching Workshop,” Department of History, University of Iowa, Iowa City, November 9, 2017.

“How to Develop a New Intergroup Dialogue Course on Gender Beyond the Binary on your Campus,” With Gabrielle Raley.  Second Biennial Intergroup Dialogue Project Conference, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, June 13-16, 2017.

Campus & Community Involvement

Appointed Member, Louis Pelzer Memorial Award Committee, Organization of American Historians, 2022-2025. 

External Reviewer for department hire, History, University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, 2022

Faculty Mentor, Organization of American Historians, 2022

Appointed Member, Editorial Board of Commonplace: A Journal of Early American Life, 2021-2023.

Appointed Member, H-Net Advisory Board for the Vice-President of Teaching, 2021-2022.

External Reviewer for Promotion, History Department, St Olaf College, 2021.

Appointed Member, Editorial Board of the Western Historical Quarterly, 2020-2022.

Outside Reviewer, Lake Forest College, Department of Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies, March 2020. 

Outside Reviewer, College of St Benedict and St John’s University, Department of History, November 2019.

Appointed Distinguished Lecturer, Organization of American Historians, 2018-

Outside Reviewer, Illinois College, History Program, November, 2018.

External Reviewer for Contract Review, History Department, Macalester College, 2018. 

Appointed Member, University of Iowa Graduate College External Advisory Board, 2017-2019.

Outside Reviewer, Lake Forest College, Department of History, December, 2014.

Board Member, Western Illinois Family Planning Clinic, 2021-2023.

Board Member, Safe Harbor Family Crisis Center, 2017-2019.

Faculty Ombudsperson, 2017-2022.

Faculty Representative on the Board of Trustees, 2016-2017.

Executive Committee of the Faculty, 2013-2016.

o   Chair, Faculty Affairs Subcommittee, 2014-2015.

Observer to the Board of Trustees, 2011-2013.·     

    What Students Say

    “I love Cate Denial so much. Every time I’m in her class, she comes at each point with a really thoughtful and articulate, conscious—something. That final thing that I don’t know. She just really comes in thinking about everyone who’s in the room and everyone who’s not in the room, and I really admire that.”

    - Sadie Cheney, ‘21

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    Printed on Monday, May 20, 2024