My mission as an educator is to positively influence students to utilize the technological tools and resources available to them to become life-long learners and civically engaged servant leaders in their communities. Similarly, my long-term vision as an educator is to produce graduates with the drive to achieve a more compassionate, just, and kind world through positive and encouraging interactions with others. I approach teaching, learning, and engaging with students through the breadth and depth of a variety of lenses: interdisciplinary learning; global and international learning; promoting geographic literacy; utilizing technology; thinking and reading critically, researching and writing well; field-based and experiential learning; and encouraging teamwork and cooperation.
A comprehensive liberal arts education requires a student be intentionally interdisciplinary in his or her learning career, regardless of a declared major. With liberal arts education’s goal of empowering students to cultivate social responsibility, and meet diversity, complexity, and change in positive and constructive ways, it is important to ensure students are thinking comprehensively from a multi-disciplinary perspective. For example, when teaching urban studies, a course exploring the diverse experience of cities, and when beginning urban geography, I highlight various disciplinary lenses through which scholars and practitioners come to understand urban processes, patterns and relationships—history, geography, urban sociology, urban social psychology, urban anthropology, political economy, architecture and urban design, among others. Furthermore, I focus on the complex interactions that exist between cities and the people who live and work within them. Through exploring these issues, I encourage students to think of productive and proactive ways in which to solve complex urban issues.
Global and International Learning
In all my classes I acknowledge the global and local geographic changes that accompany globalization. Within world regional geography and introduction to human geography, I cover the latest concepts in geography while developing a strong foundation in the fundamentals of world regions, including a sense of place and an understanding of the connections within and between regions. In these introductory classes, I help students develop multicultural awareness that individuals from other cultures in the world may well have different beliefs, behaviors, and expectations than their own and that these cultural systems are internally coherent and valid. Students also become aware of the interrelationships between societies today.
Promoting Geographic Literacy
Geographic literacy is an important skill integral to a well-rounded liberal arts education. It is comparable to being able to read, write, and speak well with a broad vocabulary, being able to do math and having familiarity with scientific concepts, history, art and literature, being culturally competent and aware, and cultivating the ability to comprehend, interpret, analyze, respond to, and interact with a variety of complex sources of information. In the twenty-first century, becoming geographically literate is an essential component to functioning in a world increasingly characterized by economic, political, and cultural globalization and increasing interconnectedness. Decisions and events in one place affect the events in another part of the globe from the global to the local scale. As such, global events shape local lives. With this in mind, I implement classroom strategies, such as map learning and assessment to ensure geographic literacy building.
A twenty-first century education involves utilizing technology in an effort to produce the most comprehensive, meaningful, and productive learning environment. In the classroom, I enjoy using technology to make PowerPoint lectures more dynamic by inserting a brief video (such as from YouTube or Frontline) to illustrate a key concept, a dynamic or animated graph to visualize data over time about a topic (such as Gapminder), a GIS map to illustrate the geographic area of study, examples from my own research when relevant to course topics, photos from my own travels to places around the globe, music from the world region being discussed, and guiding students to craft a blog or website to showcase group project progress and results. I also encourage students to remain connected to the course through an online learning platform. I continually strive to learn more about new and innovative ways in which to use technology for teaching and learning. My observation has been that the majority of students appreciate a dynamic classroom with a variety of strategies implemented to captivate their interest in a particular subject and to encourage their active engagement.
Thinking and Reading Critically, Researching and Writing Well
Students should develop analytical skills, critical thinking, reading, and writing skills, competency in a range of research capabilities, public speaking, and presentation abilities. In addition to a course textbook, I often provide current and pertinent articles for students to read and subsequently discuss in class as they relate to a specific course topic as well as provide students with a list of relevant optional books and articles. Writing assignments stemming from course topics prompt students to think critically, write well about an issue, and receive feedback on writing style and substance. In our class discussions, in small groups or with the class as a whole, I pose thought-provoking questions to encourage students to think and respond to scenarios with a sense of empathy and from multiple perspectives.
Field-Based and Experiential Learning
Encouraging students to venture off campus and explore their surrounding neighborhood and city through different course assignments is important to me in my teaching philosophy. The Atlanta metropolitan area certainly provides ample opportunities in that regard. As someone who conducts research in urban settings, integrating a field component related to my research into an actual course and involving students is something I view as meaningful. Furthermore, having participated in several study abroad opportunities, including education abroad experiences in the United Kingdom, Thailand, Burma, India, and Mexico, I am a strong advocate of travel and study abroad educational opportunities and highly encourage all students to take advantage of such immersive experiences.
Encouraging Teamwork and Cooperation
The ability to efficiently and effectively work well with others of different backgrounds and perspectives is an important skill to perfect. College is a significant time for students to strengthen such skills prior to entering the workforce. I facilitate group projects in courses in an effort to promote student teamwork and cooperation. When feasible, I plan the projects to be field-based or experiential in nature to get students into the broader community. When I teach urban geography, for example, I subdivided the class into groups to work on one of four topics requiring each group to explore a different aspect of the Atlanta metropolitan area: regional transportation planning in the Atlanta metro area; gentrification and urban renewal in Atlanta; edge cities in the Atlanta metro area; and newcomers in the Atlanta metro area.