Department of Gender Studies

Department of Gender Studies
Department of Gender Studies

Katherine McKittrick - winner of Ban Righ Foundation Mentorship Award

October 21, 2016

Katherine McKittrick black and white photoOn October 18, 2016 Katherine McKittrick was named the inaugural recipient of the Ban Righ Foundation Mentorship Award for her continuing mentorship of students at Queen’s and across Canada.

“I feel like supporting students and mentoring them is part of our job,” says Dr. McKittrick. “I feel like that’s why I became a professor – to support and mentor students, especially students of colour and students from other marginalized groups, and provide for them a space to share ideas and also do their best work.”
Much of Dr. McKittrick’s research, as well as the research of her mentees fall into the category defined as “difficult knowledge,” – topics such as racism, marginalization, oppression, and racial violence, to name a few. Dr. McKittrick defines her role as to support her students – many of whom have first-hand experience in these topics –and to create an intellectual environment to explore these themes to bring about positive change in the world around them.
Dr, McKittrick says the influence of her own mentors, both during her graduate studies and continuing into academia, has shaped her own approach to guiding students in their research. She points to the examples of her own doctoral supervisor, Lynda Peake (York University) and colleague Rinaldo Walcott (OISE/University of Toronto) for encouraging her to take her research in new directions and inspiring her to view her field through a different lens. She also highlights Ruth Wilson Gilmore (CUNY) and essayist Sylvia Wynter for the impacts they have had on her continuing research.
”She’s been a wonderful friend and mentor to me and it has been an honour to work with her,” she says of Dr. Wynter. “The best advice she has given me was, ‘don’t conform to the academic demands.’ Keep pushing and pushing and asking questions about what Black studies can do in the academy.”
While Dr. McKittrick says the award comes as a surprise, she is quick to turn the spotlight back towards her students and the reciprocal respect and admiration she has for them.
“I’m so blown away by their nomination, but also how much I’ve learned from them and how they inspire me to be a good mentor,” she says. “They ask hard questions. I put a lot of demands on my students and they always do the readings, they show up every week and they’re deeply engaged and that is challenging and stimulating for me as a professor. I just adore them.”