Siena College is honored to recognize the accomplishments of Dr. Karen Mahar as the recipient of the Academic Year 2021-22 award.

Dr. Mahar arrived at Siena in 1998 after teaching in California and Texas. She was thrilled to join the Siena family and return to the East coast. Dr. Mahar’s undergraduate degree is in American Studies, which blends history with American culture, as does her historical scholarship. As a historian, she has won a national dissertation award, a post-doctoral fellowship at the Library of Congress, and two awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Dr. Mahar has taken Summer Scholars with her to archives in New York City and London and co-delivered papers with students at academic conferences. However, what Dr. Mahar loves most is teaching. 

Dr. Mahar’s teaching philosophy is to meet students where they are and help them get to where they need to be. She understands that every student brings a unique level of preparation and interest, a unique set of skills, and their own story. She often asks students to interview family members and incorporate their experiences into the larger context. Her interest in making history relevant and her love of museums inspired her to create a Certificate in Public History. Students in her Public History courses have digitized original Revolutionary War letters, gone behind-the-scenes at Colonial Williamsburg, critiqued the Disney version of American history in Orlando, and created their own museum exhibition in Albany. Students have praised Dr. Mahar as “the history teacher I have always wanted,” as “fun, engaging, genuinely interested in the subject,” and their “favorite professor.” A former student who is now head of a High School Social Studies department wrote that he still uses Dr. Mahar’s lessons, a colleague called her “a teacher’s teacher,” and a former student who is now an Army officer wrote that Dr. Mahar “lives and practices the Franciscan Values.” 

Dr. Mahar received her B.A. in American Studies from The George Washington University, her M.A. in History from Columbia University, and her Ph.D. in History from the University of Southern California.