Maximum Likelihood Estimation
Regression and Econometrics
Intro to Probability Theory
Rebellion, Conflict, & Political Violence
Terrorism & Genocide
Intro to Comparative Politics
Intro to International Relations
Intro to Cognitive Science
Teaching Philosophy & Experience
When I began teaching, my primary objective was to create space for diverse forms of participation and inclusion. Having been a student (and admitted culprit) in one too many classrooms in which discussions were dominated by a select few, creating a classroom that both valued and encouraged a wide variety of opinions and interpretations was a priority.
Creating space for diverse engagement, however, does little to guarantee it. As it turns out, most students are not gasses—that is, they do not all just expand to fill the space they’re given. I quickly reevaluated my approach, and while the spaces remain, my priorities shifted to fostering students’ incentives for expansion.
I begin all of my classes with a discussion of artificial intelligence—specifically, I introduce my students to Watson. Watson is the name of the computer that competed in (and won) Jeopardy! against the show’s most successful human contestants. Watson is capable of answering questions posed in natural language. Watson can dissect the variety of puns and wordplay present in many of the clues: 'there’s a college and seminary in this ‘holy' Minnesota city.” Without missing a beat, Watson answers “What is Saint Paul?” I then pose The Question: Is Watson thinking? We all always arrive at the same conclusion. Watson is a receptacle, and a regurgitater—albeit a clever one—but it's not quite thinking. What’s missing?
The answer always comes: Curiosity.
Watson is not an active learner. Watson is not interested in things. I want my students to discover that what they want in friends, colleagues, teachers, and themselves, is curiosity. The active learning that comes from interest and autonomous thought is valued and it is empowering. There is no wrong answer to the question, what did reading X make you think about? I encourage my students to be curious, and to find what makes them curious. I share what makes me curious—and indeed, what stunts my own curiosity. Fostering and cultivating curiosity across a wide range of topics is what empowers students to feel worthy of participation. Curiosity is what makes students gasses; cats be damned.