Teaching

My teaching investigates how power works. My students learn to interrogate political, economic, social, and cultural power dynamics, and to understand themselves as actors within those structures. When I teach about settler colonialism, for example, students research and prepare Native land recognitions for places significant in their own lives, drawing on their own funds of knowledge to link personal experiences with these larger stories. Engaging with questions of social difference in classroom discussions helps students cultivate awareness of their own biases and encourages them to bring their whole selves into their academic work.

My background as a queer scholar has acquainted me with the challenges faced by students who feel they don’t belong in academic settings, and I am committed to welcoming all students, emphasizing their ability to learn and grow, and supporting their success in the classroom and beyond.

At U.S.C., I’m teaching “Pacific Beaches in the American Imagination” a new seminar exploring American beliefs about and representations of coastal and littoral spaces across Pacific Worlds from the Revolution to present. Students often imagine beaches as places of leisure, play, and relaxation. But in this course, students learn how and why beaches are also sites for critical investigations into larger social and cultural phenomena, such as race, indigeneity, colonialism, migration, class, gender, and human interactions with the environment. The course starts with differing Indigenous and Western conceptions of Pacific oceanic spaces; discusses environmental exploitation (whaling, gold rushes, guano) and the militarized ocean (U.S. imperialism, World War II, nuclear testing); critically considers recent cultural associations with beaches (from tiki bars to Muscle Beach to SpongeBob SquarePants) and ends with containerized maritime trade and contemporary responses to sea-level rise. In one assignment, students select and critically examine a single primary source broadly related to the Pacific Ocean and use it to challenge the arguments of a scholar we’ve read. We then assemble these essays into an online, geotagged Scalar book, creating a new student-centered atlas of Pacific thinking. By reading, researching, and writing about Pacific beaches, students learn how methods of historical inquiry can help them to understand a familiar environment in deeper and more complex ways.

As a lecturer in the Princeton Writing Program, I taught “Zoom!,” an interdisciplinary first-year writing seminar I created that focused on how speed has shaped our world. The course used three assignments of increasing complexity to teach the principles of academic argument. First, my students used representations of speed and freedom in the arts, from Italian Futurism to the Broadway musical The Pajama Game to recent television commercials, to test cultural theories about speed. In the second assignment, students drew from a curated collection of primary and secondary sources to develop an original scholarly argument about speed, automobile technology, and urban planning. For their final assignment, students produced a substantive original research essay about a contemporary speed-related policy question or cultural phenomenon of their choice. The course equipped students with scholarly research and writing skills for them to use throughout their time at Princeton and in their future work.

While working as a preceptor, or teaching assistant, at Princeton I completed the Teaching Transcript, a program offered by Princeton’s McGraw Center for Teaching & Learning that provides training in effective teaching methods, from designing a syllabus to teaching inclusively to grading student writing. I continue to use what I learned in this program to design and teach my courses and to improve them each time they’re offered.

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#BreakUpTheTrusts! While teaching Gilded Age and Progressive Era U.S. History, my students and I used hashtags to summarize and discuss the campaign platforms of the four U.S. presidential candidates in the 1912 election, thereby incorporating digital tools into a conventional classroom discussion. (My students’ hashtags for Woodrow Wilson are shown above.) Classroom activities like this one can help students make sense of a collection of complicated primary sources, while also preparing students of different knowledge backgrounds for a common conversation.

I am prepared to teach courses on U.S. history, the North American West, U.S. engagement with the Pacific World, borders and borderlands, the history of technology, mobility, environmental history, digital history, oceanic history, cultural landscapes, infrastructure studies, urban and suburban history, spatial history, and historical research methods.