Since 2007, I have taught a wide range of classes at the undergraduate level, including: Introduction to Sociology, Race and Ethnicity, Social Problems, Social Research Methods, and Social Stratification. I currently teach an Honors College experiential learning seminar for advanced undergraduates entitled Housing Insecurity, and have taught two graduate seminars, Comedy, Race, and American Popular Culture; and Empire and Revolution.
In all of my courses, I combine the original writings of classical and contemporary social theorists with cutting-edge, empirical research and hands-on, active-learning exercises to increase my students’ analytic skills and sociological literacy. My pedagogy is driven by the following values: Academic Excellence, Care, Equity, and Justice. Through these values, I aim to produce among my students a strong analytical training, and a sense of collective responsibility toward each other and our world.
Our students expect us to be experts on our subject matter. My research agenda is fundamental to my role as a college instructor. Being an active researcher allows me to introduce my students to the relevant issues and concerns within our discipline, increasing their sociological literacy, and analytic breadth and depth. Finally, as a scholar with an interdisciplinary background in sociology, women’s and gender studies, and critical race studies, I strive to incorporate that perspective into my course materials. This ensures students emerge from my courses with the kind of well-rounded liberal arts necessary for critically examining our most pressing social, cultural, and political issues. In my Empire and Revolution course, for example, my co-instructor and I draw upon our sociological and anthropological training to investigate with our students how subjugation and resistance manifest across racial, class, gender, national, and religious boundaries. Myself and my co-instructor work hard to ensure that our students undergo a rigorous and critical examination of revolutionary action by incorporating a variety of primary and secondary sources: from political theories of revolution, to ethnographies, histories, and case studies.
Teaching in Mississippi has shown me firsthand that many students arrive woefully unprepared for the rigor of a strong liberal arts curriculum. Maintaining a high academic standard while simultaneously acknowledging students’ varying capacities for attaining that standard necessitates a classroom environment where students know if they stumble there is a structured system of support to assist them. In my classroom, my students learn the mantra, “We lift up as we climb.” In all of my courses, I employ group-based assignments to encourage the development of peer-based systems of support. Students are required to meet a certain number of times as a group, to meet with me as a group, and to meet with me separately as individuals. Through these meetings, group members establish trust with one another, and with me. I have found that my group-based projects often assist students in developing systems of mutual support, collaboration, and community. This sense of community serves as the backbone for enabling a more equitable classroom experience for all, including those students who come from less advantageous backgrounds and schooling experiences.
Max Weber once described higher education as having a ‘dual character’, by which he meant its ability to both enable and constrain contemporary inequalities. This characterization remains true today, with higher education being both a pathway to reducing inequality, while also serving as a site for its reproduction. In my teaching and service, I strive to make the college experience a more equitable one for students, especially those who are women, people of color, or those who identify with LGBTQ communities. In my classroom, I consciously work to include underrepresented scholars in my course readings, and my assignments often require students to make connections between classroom topics and local issues and concerns. In my Race and Ethnicity course, for example, students are required to research legacies of racism in Lafayette County, Mississippi, including accounts of lynching, patterns of spatial segregation, and the history of slavery on the University of Mississippi’s campus. Beyond the classroom, I am a frequent collaborator with the University of Mississippi’s Center for Inclusion and Cross-Cultural Engagement in their social justice-oriented programming, serving as moderator, panelist, and consultant.
Whether it was in my time as Community Impact Director for the Heart of Missouri United Way chapter, or in my current position at the University of Mississippi, I consider sociology a set of tools from which I can build up the communities I inhabit. In all of my courses, contemporary conditions of inequality take center stage, and I ask my students to consider how sociology can help create practical, local strategies to combat these conditions. In my Social Problems course, students utilize a developmental model of the social problems process to actively manage a Living Wage Campaign at the University of Mississippi. This campaign includes social marketing, public opinion polling, and broad-based community engagement. Students have expressed in evaluations of this course that it provides one of the few opportunities to take ‘sociology to the street’ and make an impact outside of the classroom. In my Honors-level Housing Insecurity course, students receive hands-on training in field-based and survey research methods, collecting surveys from residents throughout Lafayette County in order to determine the scale and scope of housing insecurity in our local context so that we can help inform the decision-making of our elected officials on issues pertaining to affordable housing.
I consider it a true privilege to work in higher education, and believe the classroom can be a transformative experience for many students. My goal as an instructor is to have my students leave my classroom with a broader set of tools, and a deeper understanding of those tools, from which to produce a better and more just world.