SAGES teaching fellow and lecturer in English Narcisz Fejes says she’s deeply inspired by Catholic priest, theologian and professor Henri J.M. Nouwen, who considers teaching and mentoring a form of hospitality.
In her work as a full-time instructor at Case Western Reserve University since 2006, Fejes has taken that approach a step further—here, she views her students as temporary “house guests,” nurtured “to develop their vision for how they want to be in the world.”
And her students can’t help but feel welcome in her classroom.
“Despite being my professor, I feel like she truly is a person I can share my mind with and seek advice from, even when the content is different than what she taught in class,” wrote a student who nominated Fejes for a 2023 J. Bruce Jackson, MD, Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Mentoring.
“Professor Fejes pushed me to put effort in creating or synthesizing my own thoughts,” wrote another student nominator. “…She has a love and passion for her job, which is infectious, and it made me more excited to do the work because I felt as if it was valued.”
Fejes (CWR ‘06; MGT ‘07), who called the mere nomination “an incredible honor,” will receive the coveted award during the College of Arts and Sciences undergraduate diploma ceremony on Sunday, May 21.
The recipient of the 2022 SAGES Writing Instruction Excellence Award, Fejes teaches writing-intensive classes on the modern food system and agriculture—especially the lack of access to nutrition (food insecurity) caused by such issues as climate change, military conflicts and racial segregation.
She is also the faculty advisor for CWRU’s Food Recovery Network, an organization that has developed relationships with soup kitchens in Cleveland’s Hough and Glenville neighborhoods.
“In that role, I get to meet many motivated young adults with a sincere dedication to improving the lives of our community members and tackling complex problems in our food system,” she said. “Working with them in different contexts—delivering food to the Hough neighborhood or organizing events on campus—has inspired my teaching to create space for community building.”
Of course, the community building starts in her own classroom, where she considers herself a host responsible for providing a calm and supportive environment in which her students may rest and reflect.
“When I have friends or family over for dinner, I love to collect flowers from my garden or make a beautiful table so that they feel welcome and appreciated,” she said. “Mentoring, for me, involves the same kind of invitation and creation of space.”
About the award
The J. Bruce Jackson, MD, 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.