Skip to main content

Celebrating Casey Rawson

Casey sits on a burgundy couch in her office, surrounded by colorful pillows and quilted wall hangings.Music plays over the classroom speakers as students enter Casey Rawson’s classroom. Dr. Rawson asks students to send her songs that make them happy at the beginning of the semester, then uses the playlist before the class and during breaks or independent work. Students chat as they look over the zine they created as a class project and wait for class to begin. The vibe is welcoming, alive, and engaged. Rawson, the recipient of UNC’s 2024 Distinguished Teaching Award for Post-Baccalaureate Instruction, is about to start the day’s lesson.

A Journey Begins

Rawson is a North Carolina native who earned her undergraduate degree in biology from Duke. As a student, she realized that she didn’t love working in the lab but she did enjoy working in the department’s library. After graduation, she moved and took part in the Teach Kentucky program, which allowed her to teach middle school science while earning her M.A. in Teaching from the University of Louisville.

Returning Home

Family matters brought her back to North Carolina, where she continued working as a third-generation teacher. She started to think back to how much she enjoyed her library job in college and spoke to the school librarian where she was teaching about the field. In 2009, she enrolled at SILS to pursue her M.S. in Library Science. Dr. Sandra Hughes-Hassell encouraged her to continue through to the Ph.D. program.

Entering the Field

Faculty members typically focus on either research or teaching. As her passion is for teaching, Rawson considers herself fortunate that a teaching assistant professor role became available in the second year of her three-year postdoctoral appointment. In 2018, she joined her SILS mentors as a member of faculty.

“It sounds very cliché, but part of what I love about teaching it is that I love to learn, and I learn so much from the students. That’s especially true in a school like this where students have such a range of interests. Honestly, I just love interacting with the students. Any day I can talk to them and have conversations, I feel so energized afterward. They’re not just good students, they’re good people,” said Rawson.

Rave Reviews

Female professor smiling as she talks to two students seated at a tableStudents past and present are enthusiastic about their interactions with Rawson.

“I count myself incredibly lucky to have spent so much time with Casey as my mentor. She creates useful courses, with deliverables that teach skills that are not only marketable but also genuinely enrich students’ librarianship capabilities. Casey strives for equity and inclusion in all of her work both inside and outside of the classroom, is involved in the community, and tirelessly advocates for the needs of SILS students and staff. Casey has given me the confidence to try new things and believe I just might succeed. I think she is one of SILS’ greatest assets,” said current student Martha Wyrsch

“Casey is a fantastic teacher for so many reasons but the thing that sticks out to me the most is that Casey truly respects each of her students and cares about us as people and wants us to be successful and she does everything possible to support that. She creates engaging and unique lessons that are discussion-based and provides research that is enriching and interesting,” said Lauren Crowe, another current student.

“She is an amazing teacher, and since she was also my thesis advisor, I felt like I really lucked out. I think she is exceptionally good at helping students to trust themselves, and the way she arranged the thesis class was one example: She had us share our work and ideas with a partner (and sometimes a small group) of other students working on similar projects. The opportunity to share and get feedback — which of course, felt slightly mortifying to begin with — in a safe environment allowed us to get used to the process and work out potential wrinkles. And when the pandemic took over and suddenly all courses were virtual, it became apparent that there were online courses … and then there was Prof. Rawson’s online course. Her course pages were far more functional and the assignments more meaningful. I cannot imagine a professor more deserving of this award than Casey Rawson,” said alumna Sharon Demorest.

Campus Celebrations

Rawson will be recognized as the 2024 Distinguished Teaching Award recipient at the University Teaching Awards Celebration in April and at a men’s basketball game this fall.