“We see the world differently because of her”: Jasmine Cooper awarded CUSU Teaching Award for Inclusive Practice

How often are critical theory seminars described as “hands-down the best part of our Cambridge experience”?

Last week, Newnham’s Jasmine Cooper was recognised by Cambridge students for her outstanding teaching, and was awarded the CUSU Student Led Teaching Award for Inclusive practice.

Jasmine Cooper is researching for a PhD in contemporary French literature, and teaches in the Faculty of MML, including these outstanding critical theory seminars.

Her students explained why they nominated her: “She’s so fiercely passionate about teaching us incredibly contemporary and relevant theories, not just to get a better grade, because that’s so not what it’s about.”

For Jasmine, inclusive teaching is at the heart of what a university should be: “Fundamentally, what we learn, what we teach and how we teach is important – it tells us so much about what we value, who we value and who we are willing to give space to.”

She explained further “For me, inclusivity is about democratising spaces and letting marginalised voices come into dialogue with dominant ideas which are often perceived as “truths” or neutral. It is about giving students the full picture – giving them those texts they may not encounter on the normal syllabus. It’s about challenging ourselves to read differently, to listen differently, to see things from a different vantage point. The notion of inclusivity extends from the material that I teach to the way I teach – I don’t want the classroom to be a place where students are afraid that their voices aren’t important, valid or informed enough to be heard. I encourage them to ask questions, to engage with what they read, to think about how the theoretical extends into real life.”

The results seem impressive: another student explained, “we see the world and the narratives fed to us differently because of her. This isn’t studying, this is real life.”

Her colleagues at Newnham and in the Faculty are delighted by this recognition of her work, and of the importance of the study of language and languages today.

In their speech, the students concluded, “Every teacher should aspire to be of her standard.”