Solving the world’s many social challenges requires integrating the unique talents and insights of different academic disciplines, the public sector, and local communities in new and creative ways. As a teacher-scholar, I am deeply committed to facilitating this integration by training the next generation of researchers and community leaders to critically evaluate the causes and consequences of social problems—as well as proposed solutions—in ways that are transdisciplinary, culturally sensitive, and sustainable. In line with this goal, my pedagogy stresses the following five educational outcomes:
Emphasize the importance of meta-theory and transdisciplinarity, and the relationship of both to developing a holistic understanding of a social problem.
Teach students how to analyze different bodies of knowledge in ways that identify and eliminate points of contention or contradiction, as well as how to reconstruct these bodies of knowledge into a more systemic and cohesive framework. Such understandings are critical for achieving cumulative knowledge, and for engaging in integrated science.
Include an applied project that is designed to supplement and reinforce my pedagogy’s first two aims.
It is not enough for students to read about the effects of conflicts and contradictions within or between different theoretical frameworks; students need to feel first-hand how different interpretations of a problem or situation can frustrate, undermine and/or enhance our ability to understand and/or impact it. My hope here is that, by going through this process, students will become more confident in their abilities to handle the ‘messiness’ of academic research by explicitly learning how to deal with such obstacles, as well as by gaining the experience that they are capable of doing so. Whenever possible I also try to align student projects with the needs of the community or to integrate students’ work with existing community projects — this way students gain real, concrete understanding of the responsibility to others that comes with the privilege of pursuing higher education.
Provide a solid foundation for students to engage critically with existing knowledge structures and to understand how these structures apply to their everyday lives. We do not live in a bubble, and we shouldn’t be taught in one either. Further, solutions proposed by various communities are often pregnant with power disparities and other privileges. Students need to be aware of these complexities and potential conflicts, as well as know how to deal with them in constructive ways.
Give students a background in theory and methods that is broad enough to enable them to remain versatile in the ever-changing knowledge economy, but deep enough to allow them to specialize when needed. This ability is a critical skill in today’s rapidly evolving job market.
Areas of Specialization
Introductory Sociology; Social Problems; Sociology of Poverty; Sociology of Health and Illness; Classical and Contemporary Sociological Theory; Theory Construction; Research Methodology; Statistics; Sociological Social Psychology; Political Economy; Introductory Criminology; Organized Crime; Corrections.