Teaching Experience

2016-2017
  • Post-Doctoral Fellow, Colby College, Department of Sociology.
  • Courses:
    • Urban Sociology in a Global Context (Spring 2017).
    • Revolutions and Revolutionaries (Fall 2016, Fall 2017).
    • Capital Punishment in America (Fall 2016, Fall 2017).
2016
  • Lecturer, University of Texas at Austin, Department of Sociology.
    • Course: Sociology of Health and Illness (Summer 2016).
2015 – 2016 
  • Assistant Instructor, University of Texas at Austin, Department of Sociology.
  • Courses:
    • Capital Punishment in America (Spring 2015, Spring 2016).
    • Sociology of Health and Illness (Summer 2015).
  • Inclusive Classrooms Leadership Certificate, Graduate School, University of Texas at Austin.
2013
  • Teaching Certificate in First-Year Interdisciplinary Instruction, School of Undergraduate Studies, University of Texas at Austin.
2009 – 2013
  • Teaching Assistant, University of Texas at Austin, Department of Sociology.
  • Courses:
    • Life and Death Decisions.
    • Introduction to the Study of Society.
    • Social Scientific Imagination.
    • The Family.
    • Introduction to Social Statistics.
    • Globalization.
    • Race and Social Policy in the United States.

 


Teaching statement

I have taught undergraduate classes since the beginning of my doctorate. I was a Teaching Assistant from 2009 to 2013. I have conducted my own classes since the spring of 2015, both at the University of Texas at Austin (Capital Punishment in America, Sociology of Health and Illness) and Colby College (Revolutions and Revolutionaries, Capital Punishment in America, Urban Sociology in a Global Context). My courses explore the intricate relation between power disparities and inequalities of opportunity, with a focus on the effects that these dynamics have on people’s lives.

My approach to teaching reflects both my research interests and my personal experiences. As a political sociologist, I seek to understand how different forms of power are used to construct, reinforce, and challenge social stratification. In particular, I study how marginalized groups manage to organize and impose their demands despite the opposition of influential adversaries. I bring this perspective to the classroom by highlighting how different social phenomena reflect relations of domination and by exploring with my students ways to address social inequalities. In addition, my background as an international student who has relied on financial assistance to access elite higher education, as well as my experience teaching in one of the largest universities in the United States, has provided me with an acute perception of the specific challenges and opportunities that students from different backgrounds face at the college level.

As a result, my main goal as an educator has been not only to help students understand the specific content of each course I teach, but also to help them see how social structures shape these issues and allow them to develop connections between these processes and their circumstances in life. With that purpose, I pursue three interrelated strategies. First, I design courses that highlight the theoretical and practical implications of the topics in every lecture. Second, I place significant emphasis on critical thinking and group discussion, both in class activities and assignments. Third, I establish lectures and office hours as a safe space where all students can share their opinions and concerns at ease.

The first strategy entails planning syllabi and assignments that inspire students to think broadly and creatively about the content of each class. I take special care to expand the focus of my courses beyond their immediate subject, using theoretical readings as tools that students can use to interpret the topics in each lecture. For instance, in my class on Capital Punishment in America, I use theories on power, violence, and the state as lenses to analyze the criminal justice system in the United States. Students learn to use classical authors such as Marx, Weber and Durkheim, along with more contemporary scholars such as Gramsci, Lukes, Bourdieu and Foucault, to interpret and debate the fact that this country is one of the few developed nations in the world to keep the death penalty. Another example is my class on the Sociology of Health and Illness, where I use Durkheim’s work on social integration and anomie to illustrate the importance of networks for all aspects of people’s lives, include ethnographic studies of natural disasters to illustrate how environmental risks are unequally distributed among social groups, and share Foucault’s analysis of biopower to explore how medical technologies can be used as a form of social control.

In addition to a comprehensive set of readings, my syllabi incorporate assignments that demand critical engagement with the material in the class. Regardless of size, all of my courses require students to write a thorough research piece, in which they use sources beyond the syllabus to analyze a topic related to the class. Writing such a paper aids the development of crucial skills, such as analyzing an issue critically, identifying trustworthy sources in an era of information overload, articulating ideas in a concise manner, and writing in an academic style. Moreover, composing exhaustive essays helps deal with a common problem faced by university students: the expectation of being taught to the test, which hinders their ability to connect the specific concepts from the class with broader issues in society and their lives.

The second strategy is based on the principle that students learn from each other as much as they learn from the instructor. Class discussions in which participants critically engage the content and respectfully challenge each other’s views are one of the most effective ways to grasp specific concepts and train students in how to construct arguments, give and receive feedback, and speak in public. I devote the last fifteen minutes of each lecture to open debate, and welcome students’ skepticism about the information I present. Furthermore, since debates can be a challenge for students, I implement measures to ensure that everyone has a chance to participate. I include short writing assignments to create an opportunity to articulate ideas in a context different than a lecture. I also use online discussion boards and surveys as tools for students to share their views on class materials. This way, even those who struggle with in-class participation can make their opinions known. Short writing assignments also have the advantage of indicating which students need extra help, allowing me to contact them with information about the university resources that can assist them, as well as advising them to meet with me during office hours.

Finally, a third strategy is to consolidate the class as a safe space. As a foreign student who funded his education through fellowships and financial assistance, I am aware of how difficult and intimidating the university environment can be to some people. In addition, Sociology is a discipline that deals with contentious topics, and students are frequently reluctant to share their views for fear of being ridiculed or marginalized. I follow a threefold approach to deal with these concerns. First, I adopt a neutral standpoint in the classroom. This is especially important for my class on capital punishment, a divisive issue in the state of Texas. Every time someone presents an opinion, I responded by highlighting the strengths of his or her argument, followed by the statement of a possible counterargument, and an invitation for people who disagree to speak up. This way, I keep an impartial role and make sure different views were presented. Second, I constantly remind students that asking for clarification will not hurt their standing in the class, but instead contribute to their participation grade. Third, I use my office hours not just to discuss students’ problems with the course, but also to talk about their career plans, hear their concerns about university life, and offer advice on campus services available to them.

Teaching has always been a learning experience for me. I have strived to develop better ways of sharing complex ideas with students by taking advantage of on-campus training opportunities, such as professionalization courses and supervised teaching. In addition, in 2013, I obtained a Certificate in First-Year Interdisciplinary Instruction from the School of Undergraduate Studies, a semester-long pedagogy training for select teaching assistants. As a result, I improved my effectiveness in the classroom, as evidenced by my capacity to teach classes on diverse topics and the overwhelmingly positive student evaluations of my role as an instructor.

Furthermore, a constant guiding principle of my work has been that the responsibilities of a teacher are not limited to the classroom, and that the work of a sociologist is more than being a mere observer of the social world. Therefore, I encourage my students to get involved in causes they care about and emphasize that civic engagement is an integral part of learning. I share information about different events on campus, regardless of ideology or organizers.

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