I take a learner-centered approach to teaching that incorporates cutting edge pedagogical tools to facilitate instruction. To date, I have been the instructor of record for online courses in Criminology and Introduction to Sociology. I have also volunteered my time as a research mentor in the Integrative Social Sciences Research Lab at Penn State - Altoona, and have been the instructor of record for in-person Independent Study courses to facilitate undergraduate student research here at the University of Arizona. Course evaluations and syllabi are available upon request.
It is important for social scientists to remain vigilent in providing robust criminological training to students so that they understand the backbone of policies, practices, and outcomes of the criminal justice system. Moreover, especially in light of current events, instructors of criminology share a unique mission to facilitate a critical lens among students so they are ready and able to apply core understandings about the social determinants of crime in ways that facilitate more equitable policies. As an instructor of record for this course, I work to achieve this broader mission through intensive theoretical engagement that is coupled with a semester long policy-critique essay project. This project connects core concepts from the course to actual local and community issues. Students gather a robust understanding of both the structural and cultural determinants of crime in order to better understand the criminal justice system as an institution of power. They then apply these understandings through a policy critique project where students begin by exploring a local criminal statute that shapes their community, and then elaborate on their chosen policy in a final paper. This paper is assessed on how well they craft an informed argument for specific revisions to their chosen statute to increase equity and effectiveness. Through this exercise, students become more than just passive consumers of criminological theory, but active participants in shaping future discourse on criminal justice reform.
The Integrative Social Sciences Research Lab (ISSRL) and Independent Study Opportunities
I am actively involved with two formal (but interrelated) course opportunities designed to facilitate independent undergraduate research. Since 2020, I have volunteered my time weekly as a research mentor for the Integrative Social Sciences Research Lab (ISSRL) that is run from my alma mater, The Pennsylvania State University - Altoona Campus. This is a criminal justice focused research lab comprised of 10-12 outstanding undergraduates who conduct independent research projects under the supervision of faculty advisors each semester. My role in the lab is to provide additional support to these undergraduates providing methodological training, writing coaching, and public speaking feedback on their projects. This lab has produced award winning undergraduate research that has been presented at both regional conferences and internal university science fairs. As a former participant in the ISSRL, it has been exceptionally rewarding to work closely with my undergraduate mentors and contribute to shaping the next generation of undergraduate research excellence.
Additionally, I have provided credit earning independent study opportunities to undergraduates as an instructor of record at the University of Arizona. In these independent study courses, I train undergraduate collaborators in mixed methods research designs. My independent study courses aim to develop a comprehensive understanding of the research process from study design to writing up results. In this role, I have had the unique opportunity to work with students from diverse backgrounds to refine my own ability provide engaging learning experiences in an asynchroneous class format.
Introduction to Sociology
As the foundation for training the sociologists of the future, I take particular enjoyment in facilitating this course. Introduction to Sociology is the first exposure to the formal study of group behavior and society that many students have. When available, I take great pride in teaching this course because it crafts the brand for sociology that is imprinted upon undergraduate students who are in their exploratory phase just prior to selecting a major. Additionally, research shows that even one sociology course can have a profound impact on empathy development for students. I set a few clearly defined goals for students who take my intro course. First, students receive broad exposure to core topics in the field through a combination of primary texts, digital media, and instructor reading guides and lecture material. Second, I emphasize how these topics connect to contemporary events in order to push students to interpretate course material through independent writing exercises aimed at facilitating the development of critical thinking skills. Third, and arguably most importantly, I facilitate student-centered engagement that crystalizes the sociological imagination by creatively adapting instruction to help students connect insights from the course to their own life experience. This allows for each course to not only stay flexible, but also continually challenge me as an instructor to stay current with the needs of my students. Finally, given the vast resources available to structure this course I have had great success aggregating a core curriculum that makes use of open-source and non-paywall literature options to provide quality instruction without adding additional financial barriers to students.