CNU Psychology Professor Wins the Outstanding Faculty Award for 2023

An interview with Kelly Cartwright


This year, one of two CNU professors to win the 2023 Outstanding Faculty Award is Dr. Kelly Cartwright. The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia considers nearly 80 different nominees from colleges and universities all over Virginia to receive this award. Dr. Cartwright is one of 12 winners this year. The other winner from CNU is Dr. Margarita Marinova. 


Cartwright has her BS in psychology and a minor in Biology from Virginia Tech. She then went on to graduate school at the University of Arkansas and received her MA in psychology and her doctoral degree in experimental psychology. 


She taught one year at a small school in Pennsylvania before coming to CNU. She is currently in her 25th year at CNU.


Cartwright has published three books and has a fourth one coming out this March. That fourth book is a second edition of one of her published books, which is an uncommon occurrence. Having a second edition means the book sold so well that people want to see an updated version. In addition, Cartwright has published over 60 articles and many of them have been with students.


For Cartwight, the job is all about the students, “I want to foster students’ motivation and figure out where they are. And then help them grow beyond where they are. … it’s all about growth, student growth and development.”


Something Cartwright loves is the ability to really connect with the students. She says the focus is on “individual student mentoring, as much as possible.”


She continues, “I teach an intro class, and it’s big. It’s 95 students, but students say, even in a class of 95, they feel like it’s a small class because I know who they are. I care about who they are, I care about where they are, so that they don’t feel disconnected even in a big class. And I think that personal connection is important.”


That personal connection that Cartwight creates with her students can last a long time. Cartwright embodies the mentality of “once you have me as a student, you’re my student for life.”


This mentality allowed for her to easily obtain letters of recommendation from her students, past and present. These letters are a key part of the application process for the Outstanding Faculty Award.


As for her first reaction to winning the award, Cartwright says it “took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes. I can remember the moment I was sitting in the car in the parking lot, and I got the call. And it just took my breath away. It was such an honor, just such an incredible honor.”


Cartwright also talked about the research that she conducts. She describes her work as being “interested in what’s going on in your head when you’re reading, like at a cognitive level, but also in your brain? What’s going on? How are you connecting up the stuff?”


This kind of research has led Cartwright to speak before the Institute for Education Sciences, the US Department of Education’s research arm. She spoke about reading comprehension difficulties.


However, out of everything, Cartwright says her favorite part of her job is “watching students grow while continuing to grow myself.”


She will be honored at a ceremony on March 7. Cartwright will also receive $7,500 from Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation.