Lecturer in Cultural Anthropology and Museum Studies, Department of Anthropology
Length of time at Loyola:
Since February, 2014
Catherine Nichols earned her Ph.D. in Socio-Cultural Anthropology from Arizona State University in 2014. While she misses the weekend hiking excursions that the geography of Arizona provided, she credits Loyola University Chicago with expanding her thoughts on effective teaching practices.
“Prior to joining Loyola, my experience in academia never addressed or prioritized teaching. I’m grateful that Loyola has given me so many resources on ways to teach, and engagement with the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm has been really empowering. The emphases on context, reflection, and action have particularly made me a much stronger teacher for my students. It’s been great.”
Along with the courses she teaches in Anthropology and Museum Studies, Catherine also oversees the May Weber Collection, an extensive ethnographic art collection comprised of about 2,500 objects assembled by Chicago collector and psychiatrist May Weber. The curation of the collection is guided by the University’s commitment to Ignatian pedagogy, transformative education, and social responsibility.
“My students are the lifeblood of this collection. They’re doing the cataloguing and researching of the material. In the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm, we talk about context and how each student brings different life experience and interests to what they’re doing. I always try and create opportunities for students to share what they know with others. That’s a really effective method for learning in the collection.”
Catherine’s innovative teaching methods have also helped students discover ways that their coursework at Loyola relates to real world experiences. Her museum studies class affords students the opportunity to work with a museum collection and cultural objects for the first time. One of her students reflected in a blog post that she realized the legitimacy of their coursework when they visited the Field Museum and discovered that the same practices were being employed in a professional setting.
The student wrote, “I believe I have found my calling within the May Weber Collection. Rehousing artifacts ensures their safety and longevity. It is an integral part of the accession process and one that I hope to continue.”
As an anthropologist, Catherine takes the call for social justice seriously and is grateful to work for a university that places such an emphasis on social justice work. “I see my work as trying to unearth histories and share that information with native peoples, so they can go about the process of repatriating their cultural property. I want students to take away from my classes a self-awareness of how they can shape their future actions to address social problems.”