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News Dr. McKay Jenkins wins Excellence in Teaching Award

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Dr. McKay Jenkins and class

​Dr. McKay Jenkins takes a seat at the front of his Environmental Journalism class during the Spring 2018 semester. Photo/UD Journalism.

Dr. McKay Jenkins receives award.

​Dr. McKay Jenkins receives the 2018 Excellence in Teaching Award on Monday, May 7. Photo/George Watson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Dr. McKay Jenkins, the Cornelius Tilghman Professor of English and a core member of the Journalism faculty, has won a 2018 Excellence in Teaching Award.

Jenkins, who also helped create the environmental humanities minor, specializes in environmental studies and the history, journalism and literature of race relations and social justice. He has been writing about people and the natural world for 25 years.

Faculty members are selected for the award by the University Faculty Senate's Committee on Student and Faculty Honors. Faculty members are nominated because they are intellectually demanding and rigorous, deeply committed to teaching and their students, and create a lasting impact on students. More details on the award can be found on the award's website. Winners receive $5,000 through the Offices of the President and Provost, and bricks bearing their name are placed in Mentors’ Circle adjacent to Memorial Hall.

Jenkins is not new to winning teaching awards. He previously received the College of Arts and Sciences Excellence in Teaching Award and was  typically modest on news of winning the university award.

Students on the Susquehanna River

​​Professor McKay Jenkins' class trips to the Susquehanna River are legendary among students.

"I’ve been fortunate throughout my 22 years here at UD to have had a consistent stream of curious students from both journalism and the environmental humanities," he said. "These students enter the classroom eager to learn more about how the world actually functions, behind the distracting noise of politics and marketing and pop culture. It has been my privilege to join them in their curiosity, and to nurture them along in their efforts to see things more clearly.

"I do my best to get students out into the world, beyond the confines of the campus - be it on field trips on the Susquehanna River, visits to Baltimore homeless shelters, or the exploration of hydroelectric dams. It’s also been wonderful to read student writing over these last two decades, to get an intimate look at how students read and experience this strange and ever-changing world."

Jenkins is the author of several books, the most recent of which is Food Fight: GMOs and the Future of the American Diet (Avery, January, 2017), which examines the national debate over the safety, politics and environmental implications of genetic engineering and industrial food. He is also the author of ContamiNation (Avery, 2016), which chronicles his investigation into the myriad synthetic chemicals we encounter in our daily lives, and the growing body of evidence about the harm these chemicals do to our bodies and the environment.

Jenkins holds degrees from Amherst College, Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, and Princeton, where he received a Ph.D. in English. A former staff writer for the Atlanta Constitution, he has also written for Outside, Orion, The New Republic and many other publications. He teaches classes in nonfiction writing, nature writing, the journalism of genocide, the journalism of terrorism, and 20th- century American literature.

One student explains why he enrolled in not one, not two, but three of Jenkins' courses

​Professor McKay Jenkins' class trips to the Susquehanna River are legendary among students.

Why do students engage particularly well with particular students? Billy Kaselow, a Wildlife Conservation major, had a few thoughts when it came to McKay Jenkins:

By Billy Kaselow

By the end of this semester I will have taken three classes with Dr. Jenkins. I originally decided to enroll in his class because both his passion for the environment and his Susquehanna River field trips had spread like legend among Wildlife Conservation majors.

Throughout his courses, I have become a more confident writer, and I have formed a better idea of how to incorporate activism and outreach into my career as a biologist. However, what I appreciate most is Dr. Jenkins' willingness to continue discussions outside of class and to admit (often to my dismay) that he doesn't have all the answers.

I am fortunate to have consecutive classes with Dr. Jenkins this semester. The time between classes is often filled by discussion of our shared struggle as science writers and advocates, the frustrating case of humankind, and inevitably some good ranting.  

I would recommend anyone take a course with Dr. Jenkins because his teaching style seems to be to exhibit his passion and thought process while giving students the necessary tools for a solid piece of journalism. This style gives the student a lot of freedom to seek out issues they are passionate about and "raise the veil" for themselves. 

Most important, I think, is that Dr. Jenkins' questions for society are mainly built on compassion. He will look at a group of students and ask questions of environmental justice, consumer culture, extinction, and industrial malpractice; these are questions designed to encourage reflection in students and an acknowledgement that they play a role.

In my experience from close friends to the most random encounter, most of us are satisfied to let the "veil" hang thick in front of our eyes. People do not like to ask uncomfortable questions especially when the answer may implicate them. This is where Dr. Jenkins' light-hearted tone comes in: Discomfort is better met with a chuckle.

Story published on 5/12/2018 ; last modified on
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Dr. McKay Jenkins, known for getting his students outside and into the world of environmental journalism, has won a 2018 Excellence in Teaching Award.

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  • The Journalism Program
  • 221 Memorial Hall
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • 302-831-4921