Fall 2019         POIR 610: Research Design

Spring 2011    PS 234a: Multi-Method Research

Spring 2010    POL 213: Maximum Likelihood Estimation

Winter 2010    POL 212: Regression and Econometrics

Spring 2009    POL 211: Intro to Probability Theory

 

Spring 2020      POSC 469: Rebellion, Conflict, & Political Violence

Fall 2019           POSC 311: Political Analysis

Summer 2015   PS 2: Intro to Comparative Politics

Fall 2014           PS 5: Intro to International Relations

Fall 2013           CS 100: Intro to Cognitive Science

Graduate Courses
Undergraduate Courses

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. 

 

 

Sherry Zaks

USC Political Science

3518 Trousdale Parkway

VKC 326b

Los Angeles, CA 90089

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