In the undergraduate classroom, I have taught International Relations Theory, International Security, Simulating Comparative Politics, Gender and International Relations, Gender and Politics, Gender and the Law, and International Law, as well as a collaborative online course called “Global Issues for Global Citizens.” In these courses, my teaching philosophy combines elements of student participation/active learning and a commitment to integrating technology into the classroom. My purpose in teaching international relations is two-fold: first, I aim to reach as many students as possible with critical thinking skills that help them to compare different theoretical perspectives; second, I aim to help students relate their lives to that material.
To this end, I teach through books, but also through music, movies, and the internet; I teach through lectures, but also powerpoints, discussions, and other forms of student interaction (like, for example, app communication in big courses). I teach about the subject matter of the course, but also about how that subject matter impacts students’ lives. I also consciously try to teach in a way that is sensitive to the different effects of different classroom strategies on different students. For example, I teach my international relations theory class through the use of a textbook and a group of movies used to explain and expose logical flaws with different approaches to international relations. I then ask the students to teach their classmates about other books, music, and movies related to but not explained in our class discussions. It is my hope that these multimedia tools reach out to a wide variety of learners and teachers in a way that develops both their knowledge of the subject matter and their critical thinking skills more broadly than the traditional lecture format.
I believe that going into the classroom combining a sense of purpose with an understanding that students learn differently and are affected differently by different dynamics in the classroom is crucial to teaching success. While some students respond to theory by reading theoretical articles, others respond better with policy examples and illustrations, or links to popular culture. Some students learn by listening or taking notes, others learn by participating in discussion or teaching themselves. I try to integrate these strategies into a participatory classroom for any level course. In each course, I ask each student to be responsible for five to ten minutes of the teaching, as well as classroom participation (shy students, however, can “participate” in written form). I present the material through a lecture-discussion combination aided by powerpoint presentations. My powerpoints, however, are not recitations of “what you should learn in this class today” – and, therefore, are not posted before the class or useful to students interested in skipping class. Instead, they integrate pictorial, audio, and video content that helps to explain and illustrate the material that we discuss in class.
In terms of personalizing politics, I try to link politics and responsibility theoretically and practically. I aim to show my students that the personal is political/international and the political/international is personal (Cynthia Enloe’s words) by linking the theories that we study to their lives, humanizing those they consider ‘other,’ and asking them to question their assumptions about their role in international relations and/or international security. I do this by demonstrating links between the movies they watch, the music they listen to, and the international relations theory and practice which they generally tune out.
My commitment to undergraduate teaching neither starts nor ends in the classroom, however. Outside the classroom, I provided my students with co-authorship opportunities, advising, independent study opportunities, supervision in the McNair scholars program, scholarship application mentoring, undergraduate thesis supervision, and a number of extracurricular opportunities, including Mock Trial, sponsoring policy-themed clubs, presentations to undergraduate think tanks and policy clubs, and collaborative leadership opportunities.
In efforts to learn about and improve (my and others’) undergraduate teaching and outreach, I have participated in Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL), including published work on gender in the classroom, grants and research on assessment theory and practice, and organizing roundtables to discuss theoretical and empirical research in teaching and learning. In addition to this research work to improve my undergraduate teaching, I have taken advantage of numerous lectures and lessons improve my teaching, including a course on teaching in graduate school (University of Southern California), a dozen seminars on teaching and public speaking (at the Kennedy School at Harvard University), a faculty development institute for instructional technique (at Virginia Tech), a series of six seminars on technology in the classroom (at Virginia Tech), a seminar about gender in the classroom (at the University of Iowa), the American Political Science Association Teaching and Learning Conference (2009, in Washington, DC), the Active Learning in International Studies (ALIAS) Training Course (2010, in Los Angeles, CA), and attending Bridging the Gap in Teaching Training (2017, Washington, DC).
As committed as I am to undergraduate education, I am also focused on the next generation of scholars in (gender and) international relations. I make a consistent effort to create opportunities for graduate students and junior scholars, both under my supervision and in the field more generally. For example, the feminist special issue of Security Studies that I edited included five sole-authored pieces by persons who did not have a Ph.D. at the time of acceptance. Book series that I edit have contracted a number of dissertation-books to major university presses. The three years that I was the program chair for the Feminist Theory and Gender Studies (FTGS) section of the International Studies Association (ISA) were the three years when graduate students and junior scholars were most represented on the program. I use networking skills, professional contacts, and a prolific publication record to create speaking, publication, and other scholarly opportunities for students in the field. It is important to me to provide graduate students with opportunities for independent studies, weekly prospectus and dissertation-writing support groups, presentation and publication opportunities, and methodological assistance to make their progress in the program smoother, in addition to general guidance.
Overall, I see it as a crucial part of my role as a scholar to be involved actively and to the best of my ability in undergraduate and graduate teaching, mentoring, and enrichment.