“To create a just city within myself: If I live by anything, I live by that moment.”
This motto, inspired by an excerpt in the ninth book of Plato’s Republic, defines Gabrielle “Brie” Parkin’s approach to teaching, mentoring and living an impactful life.
“The just city within myself says, if I have a student in front of me who is hungry or scared or sad, it is my obligation as a person in a position of power and trust to support that student,” said Parkin, interim director of the Writing Resource Center, lecturer of English and SAGES Fellow in the College of Arts and Sciences English department. “If I want the best work out of my students in any given semester, I have to make sure, in the hierarchy of needs, that their basic needs are met.”
That level of caring and concern for students is, in part, why Parkin was chosen as one of the recipients of the 2021 Jackson Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Mentoring.
In the words of the student who nominated her for the prize: “Dr. Parkin goes above and beyond being an excellent instructor as well as SAGES coach in her department. When out of the classroom, she is an amazing person who will do what most people won’t do for those in need.”
Parkin has been with Case Western Reserve University for seven years. With a PhD from the University of Delaware, she specializes in late medieval English literature and designs courses that engage students through music, film, objects and even Minecraft.
“When teaching, she sets a relaxed and open environment for the students to give their opinions on the assigned readings or other peers’ papers, while maintaining order and offering constructive feedback,” said the nominating student.
Her commitment to her students isn’t confined to the classroom. In a notably difficult year, Parkin went above the call of duty to ensure the welfare of the community by coordinating the “Free Little Food Pantry” in an effort to address food insecurity on campus.
When asked what drives her passion for mentoring and helping others, Parkin said it’s simple: “All of this is selfish. How can I not want to be with these students? It’s a pleasure to be able to mix minds and grow with them and from them, and to help them grow in turn.”
About the award
The Jackson Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Mentoring recognizes the positive impact Case Western Reserve University faculty and staff have on the lives of students. It was established by J. Bruce Jackson (ADL ’52), in honor of Dean Carl F. Wittke, who served as an advisor, mentor, and friend to Jackson when he was an undergraduate student at Western Reserve University.
The Jackson Award celebrates faculty and staff who have guided a student in their academic and career paths; fostered the student’s long-term personal development; challenged the student to reflect, explore and grow as an individual; and supported and/or facilitated the student’s goals and life choices.