While Professor Catherine Puglisi may have spent over three decades at Rutgers teaching undergraduate students about art, she has also spent that time perfecting the teaching of art history as an art form. She is at once an indefatigable mentor, an inspiring lecturer, a pedagogical innovator, a prodigious scholar, a constant source of encouragement, and a perpetually careful reader of student work. Whether it be in one of her small seminars on Baroque art, a mid-size class on Spanish painting, or a much larger 100-level introductory lecture to Art History, Professor Puglisi has frequently garnered scores in the mid-4 range and above the department mean.
Much as a description of a work of art does not do the piece justice, these scores do not capture the breadth and depth of Professor Puglisi’s contributions to undergraduate education. In exquisite detail and clarity, her syllabi express to her student what is expected of them, what they can expect from her, the pacing and presentation of the course, and how the assignments tie in with the learning goals. In each case, a sample of the art representing the topic is front and center on page one, inviting the student into discovery and art appreciation at this very initial stage. In her classes, she promotes engagement, close-looking, and critical analysis, at the same time as she values inclusivity, integration of technology, transparency, and flexibility. One colleague lauded her for, “the efforts she takes to provide crystal clear information surely help students with little to no exposure to art history, or with less experience in writing-focused or humanities courses, to succeed.”
Professor Puglisi is known for her kindness, positivity, and enthusiasm. She lures into art history even those students who are initially reticent, taking her classes to fulfill a Core requirement. Said one student, “I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this course, as I had no prior interest in the topic, but I’ve gained a new appreciation for art. Dr. Puglisi encouraged me to think outside of the box and look at artwork in a different perspective.” Students frequently find ways to make connections between the coursework and the world of art and culture outside the classroom: “This course helped me to notice art forms in my everyday life that I never acknowledged before. Helped me gain insight on other cultures and their religions.” Her influence is so profound, in fact, that students find themselves confessing a newfound interest in art: “I’ve truthfully never enjoyed history but this class along with Dr. Puglisi has genuinely sparked my intellectual curiosity so much that I think I may minor in Art History.” And “This course led me to visit art museums during my personal time.”
Professor Puglisi is a model for others to follow—and they have. Numerous graduate students and junior faculty in the department have all expressed immense gratitude for her close mentorship and leadership. Contributions to undergraduate education come not only from teaching, but also from serving as a department leader in an administrative capacity, training TAs, and helping new faculty be their best selves as scholars and instructors. Professor Puglisi has shown this throughout her career. Her nominators write, “Catherine Puglisi holds herself to the highest standards of teaching and gently makes us and our students’ better teachers. She has always considered mentoring all our TAs as an essential part of her job.” Teaching is but one part of Professor Puglisi’s role as a professor, standing alongside her doctoral advising, wide ranging scholarship, and commitment to the departmental community, and yet she finds a way to integrate them all together, in a true pretzel-like fashion. She represents all that we value in a colleague, mentor, and instructor for our undergraduate students, and we are therefore proud to recognize her for her career of achievements to undergraduate education.