March 2016 - First Undergraduate Class
Undergraduate teaching is one of the few opportunities in this world where people are willing to consider new ideas. But classrooms are also limited spaces that can be used to instill fear as much as freedom. For me, the difference is whether or not the assigned leader - the teacher - is allowing themselves to also be taught by their students. And I can say that over the past twenty years working with young people, more than half of which include classrooms, that I have learned more than I could have dreamed. For that, I thank you all for sharing.
December 2017 - First Class as a Professor
African American Studies
This course is designed to challenge what majors and non-majors know about the past, present, and future of the Black experience.
Black Political Theory
In this coursewe work to understand the contributions of key thinkers in the Black intellectual tradition, and we identify the impact of these ideas in our everyday lives today.
We learn how to identify, analyze, and thus venture to change the ideas and beliefs upon which people’s entire worldviews are based.
Blackness and the Foundations of Power
Participants gain a broad introduction to interdisciplinary perspectives on power, social change, and revolutionary praxis.
Contested Political Representations
This course expands our understanding of different political ideologies and the ways that salient cleavages of race, class, and gender are implicated in defining what is considered “political” in the 21st century U.S.
Race & Politics
This course surveys current and historical research on Race, Ethnicity, and Politics, diving into the formal political arena in addition to movement politics.
Interpreting Contemporary Unrest
This course develops the necessary interpretive lenses to adequately account for multifaceted sites of resistance during the Movement for Black Lives.
My teaching philosophy is based on lessons from Black feminist praxis – that the personal is political – a point prominently featured in my teaching. I encourage students to ask why they have chosen their mentors and role models – whether for their accomplishments, character, or both? Which values have they been encouraged to embrace and which are more easily discarded? And especially for those with commitments to social justice and liberation, how does your relationship with privilege affect both the communities you join and the way you operate within them? These are deeply personal questions and I make sure students know that the answers have deeply political implications. I have found that the overwhelming majority of students are very receptive to considering these questions in ways that significantly improve their ability to responsibly articulate their beliefs in academic research and writing.
I use my authority to ensure safe spaces in the classroom. This safety means more students are able to bring their insights and share their values with the group – the best possible material to work with in a classroom space. I arrange my courses in such a way that requires collaboration for digesting the material, making connections to personal and global experiences, for note taking and studying, and all of the tools necessary for success an increasingly connected world. It remains very important that students know how to dispassionately observe, measure, and interpret research. I have also found that this process is greatly improved when they are bringing more of their selves into the discussion – the alternative being more selective sharing that easily leads to more confusion and poor conclusions.
I typically ensure that participation is an accumulated grade based on speaking in class, attending office hours, and facilitating collaboration amongst peers. During the pandemic I have taken significant amounts of classwork online, using social media as a way for students in small groups to identify material that buttresses the readings and class discussions. And, in an effort to maximize learning and reading, I have begun using the oft ignored tool on all of my syllabi – pop quizzes. That being said, I encourage and always receive honest feedback from students throughout classes. These are active learning environments and the more I submit myself to student’s significant power then the more they learn how to responsibly advocate for themselves.
In conclusion, my teaching philosophies are indistinguishable from my research interests. Having served as faculty advisor on award winning theses and as a committee member on a Howard University Political Science dissertation, I continue to invest in building the scholarly and particularly the research capacities of graduate students, undergraduates, and often high school students as well. With adequate funding, I hope to replicate the program that I spearheaded at the University of Chicago with Cathy Cohen, a program she inherited from Melissa Harris-Perry. These were high school programs that facilitated a summer or yearlong research methods training course, pairing graduate and undergraduate mentors with high school students and introducing them to our best practices.
Community engagement with young people is a staple of my teaching philosophy and certainly has a deep connection at the roots of Howard University. I remain very accessible to my students – past and present – and I consistently make time for scheduled appointments. Having worked with young people for my entire adult life, I am confident that the supportive and uplifting rapport we develop is a foundation for personal and intellectual growth – a largely untapped opportunity that I work very hard to maintain. I am very excited about continuing to build with and empower students moving forward.