Professor Barbara Hamilton Receives Mercer County Community College’s 2022 Distinguished Teaching Award

Hamilton says, ‘Working with students is the most exciting thing I’ve ever done.’


West Windsor, N.J. – One of the most memorable moments during Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC’s) annual Commencement ceremony is the presentation of the Distinguished Teaching Award. A tradition at MCCC for the past 38 years, recipients are selected based on nominations by students and faculty colleagues.

MCCC’s 2022 recipient is Professor of English Dr. Barbara Hamilton of Freehold. An MCCC faculty member since 2012 and former coordinator for the Rutgers Writing Program, Hamilton teaches introductory courses like Composition l and ll (honors and standard sections), and also gets to spread her wings in global literature courses like World Literature I and II and Introduction to Literature: Drama. She also teaches Liberal Arts Studies, an introduction to interdisciplinary thinking. 

Hamilton says she has found a wonderful community at Mercer that encompasses everyone: “our amazingly dedicated faculty and staff and our amazing, inspiring students." 

Hamilton has ambitious goals for her students. I want them to leave Mercer knowing how to function well in the professional world as lifelong learners, good communicators, and ethical, creative, and empathetic thinkers,” she says.

In her acceptance speech at Commencement, Hamilton urged students to put their hard-won knowledge to use. “You’re leaving here with more skills, ideas, know-how, and a wider vision of what’s possible. Always look for the positive thing and go do it,” she said.

Hamilton notes that even if her students do not develop a lifelong passion for literature, there are many valuable lessons to be learned in her classroom: how to find, process, and use accurate, helpful information.

“I hope students will use this knowledge to make their own lives and the lives of people around them better,” she said. “I want them to value their humanity – to recognize the problems humans can cause, but also to have great respect for the ways humans work creatively to solve those problems.”

Hamilton earned her B.A. in English from Carleton College and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Rutgers University. She says she did not start out intending to teach. “I was painfully shy and had a hard time speaking in public up until my early twenties,” she recalls. “Because of that, I came to realize how crucial it is to be able to express important ideas clearly. Helping other people do that became a passion.”

Once she chose comparative literature as her academic focus in graduate school, Hamilton says a whole world opened up. “I just had to share those global perspectives with everyone,” she explains. 

Before joining the MCCC faculty as an assistant professor, Hamilton taught at Rutgers, Montclair, and some other local universities. She was drawn to MCCC by two things: English faculty members she knew and admired, and a sense that she might find students at Mercer who, like herself, were driven to overcome obstacles in pursuit of knowledge.

“I know what it’s like to have so much locked up inside. It’s rewarding to see students start to let out all those inner riches and get carried away by learning,” Hamilton says. “Mercer has been a good academic home for me.”

Hamilton enjoys hearing from former students. “It's great to learn that they have found their niche and are on fire with what they are doing. I know then that they will never have a boring life, and that they'll never stop growing,” she says.

As for herself, Hamilton declares that working with students in the classroom is a thrill. “It’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever done,” she observes.

Outside the classroom, Hamilton works to improve the educational experience at Mercer and beyond. She has developed and expanded MCCC’s Liberal Arts curriculum, serving as coordinator of the Liberal Arts Program and as chair of the Liberal Arts Program Group from 2014 to 2021. She developed and directed MCCC’s former Peer Tutor Training Program and has been a member of the Mercer Honors Advisory Council since joining the faculty. She currently chairs the General Education Committee, is the Global Studies advisor, works with incarcerated students in the NJ-Step program, and has regularly served as an MCCC representative at state conferences. She has published in academic journals throughout her career and continues to present at academic conferences nationwide.

Hamilton is a member of the Modern Language Association, the American Comparative Literature Association, and the American Folklore Society, where she serves as co-convener of the Women’s Section.

Commencement 2022

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In her acceptance speech, Dr. Barbara Hamilton urged students to put their hard-won knowledge to use. “You’re leaving here with more skills, ideas, know-how, and a wider vision of what’s possible. Always look for the positive thing and go do it.”




Professor of English Barbara Hamilton, center, accepts MCCC's Distinguished Teaching Award from Acting President Barbara Basel and Board Chair Mark Matzen.