As an educator, I believe the goal of higher education is to help students develop an interest and understanding in their role in society. In my courses I encourage my students’ curiosity in the diversity present in the world and advance their critical thinking skills so that they may understand its complexity. My courses challenge students to understand politics through new approaches that will serve them beyond their academic experience. To achieve this goal I approach teaching as a dynamic process that encourages each member of the classroom to be an active partner. I strive for each of my courses to foster higher-level thinking skills and involve us all as productive members of society.
I aim to engage students with relevant course material and support them as they develop their own understandings. In my own experiences, both as an instructor and student, I love moments in the classroom when an interesting question is posed, and students come alive with discussion on topics like poverty or power. My courses are designed to invite students to challenge their own preconceived notions of these topics in politics and society. When I designed my own course I taught twice at Brown, an internship fieldwork and seminar course, Rhode Island State Government, I included a number of opportunities for students to reflect on their internship experience and how it may have changed their understandings of politics. Students became animated in discussing what terms like bureaucracy or representation meant in real practices of government. They kept track of their own progress and followed their classmate's development through journals, hour logs, and active seminar discussion (more course details available on the course website). Challenging my students to think and reflect on what they have learned or observed is the first step I take when guiding students toward more disciplined inquiry in their understandings of politics.
When approaching course material, I frequently stress the "science" part of "political science." This allows students to understand the research in areas frequently characterized by uninformed judgments and opinions. In my Urban Politics and Policy course, for example, it would mean leading the students through readings and lecture about why suburbanization happened in the United States. Are today’s housing patterns due to individual household’s random decisions, as students might initially presume? Or are they a legacy due to federal policy set back in the 1930s? What role did racism play in suburban development? How important was the invention of the automobile? To answer these questions, I guide students through thinking about how we can test these questions with informed hypotheses and what data we should collect in order to do so. I encourage my students to approach questions like these with a rigorous, academic focus, utilizing research and science to understand answers.
As a professor, I want show students how to find and support their own answers to these challenging questions.I equip students with the knowledge and skills necessary to understand and analyze research in political science. I work with students to develop a portfolio of skills related to research and writing that they may use beyond the university experience. I teach students to take responsibility for their own knowledge and learning experience. Too often students view their education as a passive process where they receive facts and grades. To engage students as active participants, I may assign students to write an individual research paper on their own topic of interest in an upper level course like Race and Ethnicity Politics or present their own analysis of a case study in a more introductory course like Introduction to Public Policy. I aim to train students to think thoughtfully and critically about questions of interest and formulate logical arguments to express their own ideas.
Often, this involves planning course material to sharpen students’ problem solving skills. I enjoy including real-life examples into discussions and giving students different opportunities to relate to course material. In my Urban Politics and Policy course, I will have students review the documentary, Street Fight, about Cory Booker's campaign for Mayor of Newark to understand real life questions of power in the city. In my Race and Ethnicity course, I would add songs like "We Shall Overcome" and Sam Cooke's "A Change is Going to Come" to my lecture to help students access and relate to the course material on the Civil Rights Movement. My teaching approach supports students’ learning in a variety of ways, through online discussions, organized debates, peer evaluations, or structured journal exercises. Through these exercises which I've used in my experience as a Teaching Assistant, I find each of my students can develop their own role in the classroom community. The interactive approach also encourages students to explore different perspectives and assists their understandings of society and its many diverse members.
To be an active member in our learning community, I make every effort to be approachable and encouraging in the student’s lives. I find this motivates students to take their classroom experience and expand it to their own individual lives – like a discussion section prompting one of my City Politics’ students becoming a campaign leader for the East Side neighborhood for Providence’s first Latino Mayor. Students enjoy when I bring my own experiences on topics we study, like discussing my experiences as a 3rd grade teacher in Baton Rouge, Louisiana through Teach for America when continuing the classroom discussion on urban education reform after class one day with a student. My favorite courses are those where the classroom stretches beyond the four walls, through office hours, coffee breaks, and online discussions.
As a scholar of race and ethnicity and urban politics, I am deeply committed to issues of diversity both in the classroom and in our communities. I am available to my students because I believe that each student is unique and worthy contributor in the classroom. We each come from a variety of backgrounds and bring with us different experiences as individuals. To enrich my instruction, I have completed two years of training through the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning on topics promoting reflective teaching practices. I aim to create a safe environment where students may discuss their thoughts and experiences on politically sensitive topics - like immigration or racial identity. I acknowledge and appreciate the value my students' experiences and differences bring to my classes. At the same time, I hold each student to uniform standards set by the mission of my department and university. I expect my students to accept responsibility for their part in the learning environment. In return, I promise responsibility in my role as an educator. By promoting welcoming and respectful relationships among all participants of the learning experience I am able to facilitate students’ success in learning.
I hope to provide students a successful learning experience where they develop the tools to better understand politics in their own lives and the lives of others, long after the classroom experience concludes. In the classroom and beyond, we broaden our experiences when we listen to and learn from one another. I support my students as they develop their own intellectual curiosities and the skills necessary to explore them. I encourage my students to develop a greater appreciation for the rich diversity throughout society. Ultimately, I cherish my role as an instructor as I help students develop into more responsible and better-informed individuals.