I start each of my classes by telling students about my course goals and a brief list of “ten things this professor loves.” Both of these lists communicate to students that I am interested in learning as process––one in which I expect students to be partners in cultivating an inclusive, trusting environment where it is okay to take intellectual risks. Anthropological tools, informed by the idea that anthropology “makes the strange familiar, and the familiar strange,” help us to create this inclusivity. My pedagogical methods, therefore, emphasize student voices, experiential learning, and mentorship.
In each of my classes, I use social media to foreground student voices. In my Introduction to Cultural Anthropology course, I require students to tweet observations from their everyday lives that relate to the course materials using a class hashtag. When we read about food insecurity among Latinas in the United States, I asked students to compose a tweet about food in their own lives. One student tweeted “Coming from a Latino family, my parents also faced the shame of having to use food stamps” while another tweeted “I applied for SNAP over the summer because I didn't have enough food. Went through 3 weeks of waiting to get a monthly $16.” These tweets sparked conversation about the invisibility of food insecurity among college students, inspiring a few students to organize a campus-based awareness campaign about student hunger that led to the creation of a dining hall-based meal donation program.
In addition to highlighting students’ voices, social media also creates new points of contact between students. For example, we live tweet the film, Ongka’s Big Moka, which allows students to ask each other why Ongka would collect so many pigs, only to give them away. After this screening, we watched a montage of hip hop videos that featured performers pouring champagne out––that is, not drinking it. This contrast made Ongka’s choice to give away the pigs make sense as a corollary to why hip hop performers might pour champagne on stage. I also take my students outside the classroom to enhance experiential learning. For example, in my Good Food course, when students read about freeganism (e.g., people who choose to minimize participation in the conventional economy by recovery food that is free and vegan) we practiced “dumpster diving” as we walked through the streets of the college. At the end of the semester, students wrote manifestos creating a social platform on food justice. One student, wearing a garbage bag as a cape during his presentation, used Zizek to examine how the American cultural obsession with nutrition comes at the cost of attention to food consumerism and increases waste.
Finally, in my upper level seminar classes, I design assignments in an incremental fashion, providing mentoring on the dilemmas of research and writing throughout the semester. In my methods course, students read about a method and then practiced it the following week. By the end of the semester, one student had written an ethnographic analysis of a Latino serving clinic as well as a policy brief that she distributed to the clinic leadership––as she had interviewed both patients and providers while participating and observing in the clinic. After graduating, she was hired as a community liaison to help uninsured families navigate free insurance provisions in Oregon.
In sum, my teaching values diverse perspectives and in my courses this diversity helps to reveal the positionality that we each carry into the classroom. In this way, teaching anthropology, through in-depth explorations of local and cross-cultural ethnographic material, is revelatory. Through discussion, reading and research, students come to an awareness of human diversity and begin to develop the critical skills to contextualize, and engage, that diversity.
Social Justice Retreat
In 2015, I collaborated with social sciences faculty and the Center for Civic Engagement at Pacific University to create a Social Justice Retreat. The 3-day retreat focused on developing awareness about how privilege operates in the student participants' lives and their campus. We also focused on leadership skills. We are currently planning a second retreat for 2016.
Anthropology @ Work
Anthropology @ Work is a lecture and workshop series I created for the liberal arts environment at Pacific University. For this series, scholars, activists, and applied anthropologists speak about their research and more broadly the ways they use anthropology to address social problems. An added dimension of this series is to explore the role of anthropology and ethnography in the workplace.
The first of the series was held on April 7, 2015. Bryce Peake visited and delivered a lecture titled "Building Tinn: Design Anthropology as Corporate Job and Political Strategy." He also lead a workshop with undergraduates and career develop staff titled "Anthros in Tech: Decoding and Skilling Up."
In its second year, speakers include Megan Carney in Fall 2015 and Lisa Uperesa in Spring 2016. Carney will give a talk titled: "'Back There We Had Nothing To Eat': Food Insecurity and Women's Migration at the Intersections." She will also offer a workshop titled "Mindful Fieldwork: Using Anthropology to Effect Change at Multiple Scales" where she will focus on the ways that research can (and should) be at the center of social movements. Carney will share her experiences of doing fieldwork while also working with universities, policy makers, local activists, and community-based nonprofits in addressing issues of social justice.
Aaron Ferguson: In 2015 I was awarded a PRISM grant through Pacific University to oversee undergraduate independent research. Aaron conducted independent ethnographic research in American Samoa on how youth imagine their futures. He also conducted archival research at the Nelson Library in Apia. Aaron collected articles published from 2013-2015 in the daily newspaper, the Samoa Observer, on food, fat, and fitness to supplement my corpus of news media. He presented his research at the Society for Applied Anthropology meetings in Vancouver, BC in 2015.
Aaron now works as a Clinical Research Assistant at Aggregate Analytics Inc.
Laura Shonk: After studying abroad in Argentina and working in a Spanish immersion elementary school in Forest Grove, Laura Shonk was awarded a Fulbright IIE Award to teach English in Spain. Her thesis focused on her study abroad research in Cordoba, Argentina, where she explored English language ideologies and the ways that the prestige associated with English made English-language learning difficult.
Chelsea Hill: Chelsea's anthropology senior capstone was featured in the Forest Grove newspaper. Her project uses anthropological theories of gender violence to develop a bystander intervention training designed to address campus-based sexual assault.