Ruthanne Crapo Kim Named Board of Trustees Educator of the Year

woman smiling

The Minnesota State Board of Trustees of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities recognized Ruthanne Crapo Kim, alongside seven colleagues, as Educator of the Year. Four of Ruthanne’s students nominated her for the award, which recognizes exceptional professional accomplishments and encourages ongoing excellence in teaching.

Ruthanne joined the philosophy faculty at Minneapolis College in 2012 bringing her students and the College a strong history of knowledge and dedication to her work. Ruthanne describes herself as a transnational and transracial adoptee who grew up in a religious community in a metro area of Washington.

Her ambition drove her to her studies. In fact, while earning some of the highest education honors, Ruthanne funded her way through school, at one time holding six part-time jobs, ultimately achieving a bachelor’s in communication arts, a master’s in counseling and theology, and a Ph.D. in philosophy.

“Ruthanne is an expert instructor, with a deep knowledge of effective course and assessment design, current pedagogical theory and practice, and her subject matter,” said Sharon Pierce, president of Minneapolis College.

“Students also highly value her teaching.
In addition to contributions in the classroom, Ruthanne has long been a champion for equity and inclusion. During the past several years, she has served as a faculty leader on two campus-wide equity and inclusion committees. In addition to all of these contributions, she has managed to maintain an extensive research agenda. Topics of her scholarship include both her primary discipline of philosophy, allowing her to stay current in her field, and culturally relevant pedagogy, one of her passions.”

Ruthanne challenges her students to fully engage in their education, often implementing the Asian philosophy where students and teachers work together to bring insights to material, course design and pedagogical delivery. “In the real-world, collaboration is an essential,” said Ruthanne.

“I provide students an opportunity to go after challenging ideas, make mistakes, find their voices and embrace leadership.  Students have an opportunity to explore a range of social factors including power, diversity and cultural dominance.”

Ruthanne is known to listen to her students and works with them to leverage their voices and expertise to reshape how they identify resources, overcome stigma and find support.

“Classroom discussions are largely student-driven,” said Ruthanne. “I encourage students to share their experiences, their narratives and communities regarding ethical dilemmas. When students disagree and then work through what is at stake in their positions, they begin to bridge and form a more cohesive and authentic belonging that makes space for challenge and acceptance.”

One notable assignment gives students 30 minutes to apply a normative principle toward a concrete ethical dilemma. In groups, they are asked to identify the ethical issues of their case, their position, the ethical theory being used and other ethical theories that may be used to support their position. The assignment brings diversity of views, willingness to disagree and make mistakes, division of labor, understanding and inclusion.

“I teach as an act of political and social justice in order to transform individual lives and democratically engage our students and their cultures,” said Ruthanne, who believes good instruction ought to be accessible and help us mediate our world in ways that make sense, and yet, challenge the horizon of our ideals and imagination.

“I believe the habits and practices of good dialogue allow students to embody their ideas and practice critical thinking skills. In my classroom, we learn to disagree without becoming disagreeable in order to discern our most basic life principles, which teach us how to share our world. I ask students to analyze their core beliefs and the origins of these beliefs with greater depth and clarity.”

“Rather than exams, I offer “celebrations” where we celebrate all that we have learned with a mid and end of semester gathering of food and stories that weave together what we have gained,” said Ruthanne. “I also use these moments to offer student evaluation and implement changes based on student insight working toward continuous improvement.”

Every course Ruthanne teaches has been peer reviewed and she regularly invites administrators into her classroom to offer critical feedback. “I am humbled to receive this honor from the Board of Trustees,” said Ruthanne, who is quick to recognize and credit the teaching excellence of her colleagues. “I see the hard work and dedication of my peers and it drives me to bring the same excellence to my work as they do to theirs.”