Social Work Professor Wins Exemplary Teacher Award

Kara Cavel, Exemplary Teacher of the Year

Kara Cavel, associate professor of social work, was named the 2020 Exemplary Teacher of the Year. Her colleagues describe her as a regular source of stability and comfort for students.

“Professor Kara Cavel’s commitment to anti-racist practices is helping to push us all to create a more inclusive classroom environment where the voices of all have a place in instruction,” say her colleagues in the Department of Social Work.

She brings diverse content to students to learn beyond a typical classroom lecture. She revises her courses to include current events and experiences. She asks students to attend art exhibits that demonstrate key social issues. She asks them to listen to community activists on their work to improve social justice.

Cavel’s work and dedication to providing inclusive experiences and opportunities to all students has earned her this year’s Exemplary Teaching Award.

The award is given to an NWU professor each year who exemplifies excellence in teaching, civility and concern for students and colleagues, commitment to value-centered education, and service to students, the institution, community or church. The award is sponsored by the Division of Higher Education of the United Methodist Church and the Office of the President at Nebraska Wesleyan.

For the past 10 years, the associate professor of social work has taught nearly every core course offered in the undergraduate social work program, resulting in greater connectivity with social work students and faculty. But Cavel was especially praised for her attentiveness to the needs of NWU’s adult students.

“She also recognizes that our adult students bring with them lives and histories that sometimes need to be considered when exploring deadlines and requirements,” said colleague Toni Jensen, assistant professor of social work. “She will work with students to find ways for them to meet her expectations, while also helping them navigate the realities of their own lives.”

In addition to teaching classes on both the Lincoln campus and at NWU’s Omaha site, Cavel has served in many capacities including advisor for the student organization, Global Service Learning, which she accompanied on both national and international service trips. She serves on the undergraduate curriculum committee, Forum Committee and has helped develop courses for the university’s new Master of Social Work degree. She gives back to her community as a practicing clinical social worker in Omaha, teaches yoga, has trained Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers and has served as a board member on the National Association of Social Workers, Nebraska Chapter Board of Directors.

She is described as a regular source of stability and comfort for students,” said Jensen. “We are fortunate to have Dr. Cavel in our community and I believe she is very deserving of this Exemplary Teacher award.”