Management prof: a love for teaching

May 28, 2013
Suzanne Kitchen
Dr. Kitchen holds a Harry Potter magic wand. In the background are the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry flag and other items.

Students like to visit Dr. Suzanne Gosden Kitchen's office because of her Harry Potter collection.

A devoted fan, she has been collecting memorabilia from the books and movies since they first appeared in the late 1990s. She has Harry Potter's Wand, the Marauder's Map of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, a Hogwarts flag, and ornaments for each of the houses at Hogwarts – all familiar items for fans of the books and movies.

In fact, she had a cat named Hermione (the name of one of Harry's best friends) and, although she said she had not planned it, her son, Charlie, age 7, was born on Harry Potter's birthday. Her phone has a Harry Potter ring tone.

However, students also come because they think she's a great teacher. In fact, last month she received the Dean's Faculty Award in Teaching because of her performance and outstanding evaluations from students, and in 2012 she was voted by Beta Gamma Sigma students to receive the Professor of the Year Award.

Kitchen, a teaching assistant professor in management and industrial relations, joined the College of Business and Economics in 2003 as an adjunct professor and in early 2010 became a full-time professor.

To her, teaching is about being a mentor, not just a talking head. That's the opinion of Alexia Biafore, one of her recent students. "Dr. Kitchen has made a profound impact on me. She has gone above and beyond for her students by helping us in any way we need," she said. "She teaches through her personal experience that relates to what we are learning in class. Thus, we remember the material. There have been various times in my job where I am in a situation and I think of a story she told us, and that's how I fix the problem."

Kitchen earned a bachelor's degree in education from West Virginia University in 1994 and a master's in 1997. She completed her doctoral degree in higher education administration in 2007. She was the first person in her family to attend college.

"Who would have guessed 24 years ago when I first came to college that I'd be here, working as a professor and winning the distinguished teaching award?" she asked. "Probably not even I would have guessed so!"

"I like being the MSIR advisor a lot. I monitor students' progress, and I also get to see their graduation and job offers. This is all really cool stuff."

Kitchen said she has been inspired to be an outstanding teacher by many teachers whom she respected during her own education. "I've patterned some of my behavior from those folks but also from inspirational speakers and storytellers I've encountered during my years in training," she said.

Born in Bristol, Tenn., Kitchen came to Morgantown to attend WVU and stayed.

Before joining the College of Business and Economics faculty, Kitchen worked as a senior consultant for the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), a service of the federal Office of Disability & Employment Policy. For her clients she resolved ADA cases and developed accommodation ideas for employees with cognitive/neurological impairments. During this time, she became a training expert on disabilities and workplace accommodations.

She serves on the board of directors for the Mountaineer Boys and Girls Club. She holds a leadership role in SHRM (the Society for Human Resource Management) State Council and is on an advisory board for the West Virginia Hospitality Education and Training.

In addition, she serves as the faculty advisor for the WVU chapter of SHRM and her student team won a SHRM regional case study competition twice. She also serves as the Master of Science in Industrial Relations program advisor.

"I like being the MSIR advisor a lot," Kitchen said. "I monitor students' progress, and I also get to see their graduation and job offers. This is all really cool stuff. Plus, when international students come, I like meeting them and showing them around campus. I've met students from Germany, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria. I really like welcoming them to town."

Dr. Kitchen began her professional career as a public school teacher in Virginia. She designs disability awareness activities to educate the public and enjoys finding new ways to promote disability etiquette in society. The legal profession requests her as an expert witness on ADA and disability cases. She regularly grants interviews to the media on disability-related topics. Additionally, Dr. Kitchen still provides private consulting and training.

When not teaching, training or writing, Dr. Kitchen can be found gardening at home with her son, Charlie, and her husband, Russell.