At Concordia, I teach both an introductory survey course (The U.S. Political System) and an upper-level seminar for Political Science undergraduates (Political Parties and Interest Groups). In addition, I have designed (and currently teach) an original, interdisciplinary seminar on Renewing American Democracy: Challenges and Opportunities. During my Ph.D studies, I designed and taught two original courses, receiving (for my summer 2019 course) student evaluations higher than both the university-wide and Political Science averages. These included an in-person survey course (Introduction to American Politics, summer 2019) and an advanced, online-only seminar (The Politics of Gender & Sexuality, fall 2020).
My classes prioritize student engagement and active learning. Students participate in my lectures; I do not simply “talk at” them. They ask questions, challenge my arguments, and link our conversations with concepts from their other PoliSci courses — and indeed, their courses in other departments too. Effective teachers take risks. Thus, I have learned how to go off-script, but cycle back to my learning objectives for each class. Perhaps most importantly, I let students know when their contributions have helped us better understand the course material.
Political scientists sometimes overstate the distinction between good teaching and good research. In truth, compelling research requires the qualities that good teachers have in common: empathy, open-mindedness, intellectual curiosity, and flexibility. As a scholar of long-term partisan change in the United States, my work explores the distinct (and contradictory) ways that Americans think about parties, party coalitions, and elections. However, I do not conduct this research in a vacuum. As a teacher, I am a participant in the same democratic project whose peaks and valleys my research explores. I trust my students with big questions about democratic citizenship and representation — for the same reason that I trust myself with these questions.
Looking back, my approach to teaching crystallized while I was still an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. At Wisconsin, I minored in Integrated Liberal Studies (ILS) — a certificate program modeled on Alexander Meiklejohn’s Experimental College. Much like ILS classes at Wisconsin, my seminars emphasize critical engagement with foundational texts, anchored by organizing questions that motivate discussion. Thus, when I teach Lilliana Mason’s Uncivil Agreement or Ezra Klein’s Why We’re Polarized, I train students to be critical, creative democratic participants. Equally consistent with the ILS ethic, my courses celebrate multiple ways-of-knowing. There is a place for survey data. But to understand the importance of narrative, it pays to read William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! or Louis Menand’s The Metaphysical Club.
In the end, I respect and appreciate students. While their contributions too often go unrecognized, all students enrich the university’s creative life. I believe that when students are disengaged, this is often the fault of instructors rather than students. I maintain that challenging students is one of the primary ways to show them respect. Moreover, I have seen first-hand that undergraduates are capable of extraordinary, high-impact research. During my Ph.D studies, my colleagues recognized my pedagogical approach; in spring 2019, IU’s Department of Political Science named me Outstanding Associate Instructor for the previous academic year.