Teaching philosophy

My teaching experiences have varied substantively from sociological theory to food systems; from classrooms of ten to eigh20180920_124818ty students, to one-on-one tutorials with research assistants, invited guest lectures, and interdisciplinary curriculum development. Each experience has increasingly convinced me that my job as a teacher is to develop in students the skill of competent compassion.

Competent compassion has three components.

First, it is rooted in personal experience. I believe that, in education, stories breathe life into complex social issues. Stories of “others” invite students towards both the recognition of shared humanity and the indignation of social injustices. Stories of “self” inform how students understand who they are and what they have to offer.

Since stories abstracted from the broader histories of social life ring empty, however, the second requirement of competent compassion is mastery of sociological theory. Sociology offers students an opportunity to see their own personal biographies within broader patterns of social stratification and economic inequality, for example. Stories may fuel compassion for others and for self, but theoretical and empirical instruction increases students’ competence to make sense of those experiences.

The third component of competent compassion is transformative communication. Without clear communication, even the best ideas will suffocate. Every class I teach incorporates scaffolded writing instruction and low-stakes opportunities for students to draft, revise, and debate pressing social issues. By the end of each course, students are equipped social compassion, empirical competence, and communication skills of engaged citizens. In recognition of my commitment to student success, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Sociology Department honored me with a teaching award in 2017.

How do these principles play out in the classroom and beyond? I design curricula and in-class learning experiences that empower students to draw their own connections between sociological principles and their everyday lives. I teach argumentation and respectful debate in all classes. And, I emphasize individualized attention and mentorship for deep learning.

From classroom teaching and lecturing to collaborative research and curriculum development, I am committed to guiding students into compassionate, competent citizens of their local and global communities. I cultivate learning spaces where students can see their commonalities and differences within their social histories, where they can speak truth to power with skill and confidence, and from where students can pursue their own solution-oriented, socially-engaged research and citizenship.

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