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Teaching Faculty Spotlight: Stephanie Knezz

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Stephanie Knezz is an Assistant Professor of Instruction in the Department. Stephanie studied Chemistry at Butler University (BS 2011) before earning her PhD in Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2016. In all her courses, Stephanie focuses on promoting identity affirmation and self-efficacy among historically underrepresented students in STEM to promote persistence in their college careers and beyond. When not in the classroom or lab, you will find her running, biking, climbing, playing music, and going to shows. 

What inspires you about the students you teach? 

Northwestern students are some of the most driven and committed people I have ever met. They come from so many different backgrounds with so many different lived experiences and motivations for learning chemistry, but what they have in common is how dedicated they are to learning and rising to whatever challenge they encounter. 

What Chemistry class / professor did you enjoy the most as an undergraduate or graduate student and how did that inspire your teaching? 

My favorite class in undergrad was organic chemistry, and that was largely due to my wonderful professor. In addition to that though, I took a class called "Creationism in America" that was taught by an evolutionary biologist. That course showed me how intertwined science is with culture and social issues, and that deeply influences how I approach teaching science to this day. 

What advice do you have for youngchemists interested in a career in academia? 

There are a lot of ways to "be in academia"; it's a beautifully diverse place to be! Think about what you like about higher education. Think about the kind of school you'd like to be a part of and what kinds of resources are important to you. If you’re not sure, ask questions to your professors and people at other types of institutions. 

Can you tell us something not on your CV that you would like us to know? 

One thing I really love to do when I have time is community activism. I like to know about local politics and get involved in neighborhood projects. I feel like these days it's easy to feel very isolated and feel like we know very little about the place we live, but getting out there and getting to know and serve your neighbor is incredibly gratifying and powerful for mental health and empowerment. 

What do you hope to accomplish and/or contribute to the department and your students over the next year? 

I hope to continue to work to educate myself and others about the critical intersection of science and social justice. I hope that as we start to see the ways in which inequity and bias influence establishment science (as well as the other way around), we can empower students who typically feel a lack of belonging on our classes to understand how vital their participation in science is. I hope this can motivate a more diverse group of young people to pursue careers in science. 



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