Dr. Kathy Hibbert honoured with Distinguished University Professorship

April 24, 2023

Professor and Associate Dean of Teacher Education Dr. Kathy Hibbert

There is no shortage of pride at the Faculty of Education after Dr. Kathy Hibbert was honoured with Western University’s Distinguished University Professorship award.

A professor, as well as the Associate Dean of Teacher Education, Hibbert is the first member of the Faculty of Education to earn the title of Distinguished University Professor.

Established in 2005, the award recognizes sustained excellence in teaching, research, and service over a substantial career at Western.

“It is quite overwhelming,” Hibbert said when asked about receiving the award.

A first-generation scholar, Hibbert earned her PhD in 2005 after nearly 20 years of professional practice with the Lambton Kent District School Board, then-called the Kent County Board of Education, where she worked as a teacher in a variety of settings.

In 2008, she began a tenure-track appointment with a cross-appointment to the Department of Medical Imaging at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, as well as affiliate memberships within the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, the Faculty of Social Science, and the Faculty of Health Sciences

“This led to a great deal of interdisciplinary opportunities that have fed my imagination and introduced me to ideas and colleagues outside of my own field,” Hibbert said.

Those opportunities and collaborations have stretched far and wide, and the impact of Hibbert’s work is felt locally, nationally, and internationally.

Opportunities and collaborations far and wide

Her global contributions include working with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an intergovernmental organization that serves more than 170 member states.

This led to various collaborations over the past 15 years, including an interdisciplinary curriculum development project that was formed in response to the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011. Led by Hibbert, the project saw her work alongside the medical teams involved in responding to the tragic incident in Japan.

Another project saw Hibbert conduct research with terminally ill cancer patients in Cambodia, which explored why patients were not seeking treatment early on in their illness. The results of this research helped attract funding to construct the country’s first National Cancer Centre.

Locally, Hibbert continues to work with teacher candidates in the Bachelor of Education program, helping them grow into educators who will transform the lives of countless students for generations to come. An extension of this work recently saw Hibbert lead the development of a micro-credential in online teaching and learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, Hibbert created a virtual tutoring program to support more than 400 families. This program was adopted by Western and supported all Western employees with young children in 2020-2021.

“That is what feeds my soul and keeps me energized,” Hibbert says as she reflects on those projects.

Having garnered millions of dollars in research funding, Hibbert’s nominators describe her as an internationally recognized scholar in multiliteracies education across the professions.

Hibbert excels as a leader regardless of the setting, having served as both acting dean and associate dean, teacher education for the Faculty of Education during the pandemic. Elsewhere, she has served as chair of an academic research cluster, course and program coordinator, director of a research centre and director of continuing teacher education, all while fulfilling other high-level external duties.

The professor has also won teaching awards in both undergraduate and graduate courses in every year she was eligible and has supervised and/or served on committees for 83 graduate students.

“In my family, this would be a funny question,” Hibbert says when asked how she maintains such a tireless work ethic.

“I grew up on a farm, so working hard was bred into our DNA.”

She cites her parents as incredible role models, noting that her mother is still very active at 85.

She notes that her success included her share of rejected papers and grant applications. I learned to think about what their feedback offered my growth.”

Driven by a love for teaching

While her work crosses disciplines and borders, Hibbert efforts always centre on education and are driven by a love for teaching and a love for working with students of any age.

Transforming education is a “reciprocal opportunity for learning and deeply meaningful to contribute to the growth of others,” according to Hibbert.

“Over the past 40 years in education, I have seen many changes and many patterns,” she added.

“What drives me is a desire to centre student learning and then do all we can to support educators, so that they can bring their best to the social, cognitive, and emotional growth of the students they serve.”

Motivated to constantly grow and learn, Hibbert credits interdisciplinarity with introducing her to new perspectives and providing opportunities to work with those who think very differently.

The Centre for Education Research and Innovation at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, where Hibbert holds an appointment as a Centre Researcher, is one example of where a “wonderful cross-pollination of ideas” is allowed to flourish, according to Hibbert.

The Distinguished University Professorship award, Hibbert says, is not won alone, adding that she must acknowledge the incredible mentorship of Dr. Sharon Rich and Dr. Lorelei Lingard, along with “the collegiality and support from my fantastic students, colleagues, and staff at the Faculty of Education.”

“I thank Dean Donna Kotsopoulos for the nomination and support for all that I do,” Hibbert said.

“And most especially, my partner Bill, who inspires me.”