Teaching Philosophy



My teaching focuses on three themes: forging a democratic classroom, integrating theories of race and ethnicity, and integrating my teaching and scholarship. In the classroom I focus on developing analytical and critical-thinking skills, where students link individual experience with broader social issues to employ the “sociological imagination.” Students are required to take an active role in the learning process and to understand and evaluate multiple perspectives. I encourage students to bring their own backgrounds and personal experiences to our classroom discussions. In this way students not only benefit from their classmates differing opinions, they also grow from the interaction with their diverse peer group. Through this pedagogical approach, I cultivate an environment that stresses equity and respect so that students feel comfortable and confident while expressing their own thoughts with one another. Most of my classes involve a multi-stage research or critical analysis paper. This approach promotes a constant involvement in thinking through course materials in relation to their own ideas. For each course, I adapt the paper structure to fit the course level and topic.

While I teach a wide variety of courses, race, ethnicity, and migration are constant threads. In my Sociological Theory courses, we analyze the shifting nature of race, ethnicity, and migration through social forces of globalization and transnationalism. In my Race and Ethnicity courses, we analyze how racial subjects are social constructions that are constantly renegotiated through narrative, and culture. In addition, in my Urban Ethnography courses, we connect issues of race, ethnicity, and migration to analyses of inequalities associated with access to resources. Furthermore, in my course on Power, Deviance, and Social Control, we explore the ways that race and ethnicity operate through discourses that have real socioeconomic and material consequences.

Teaching is an extension of my interdisciplinary approach to scholarship. I teach the required undergraduate and graduate level sociological theory courses, and I have developed over a dozen courses that represent my interdisciplinary approach to race and ethnicity. Because pedagogy and research go hand in hand, I have developed materials in these classes that were published as Changing Theories: New Directions in Sociology (the University of Toronto Press), Rethinking Contemporary Social Theory (Routledge), and Social Theory: Continuities and Confrontations (the University of Toronto Press, three editions) (See Hancock and Garner 2014b, Garner, Hancock, and Budrys 2013, Hancock and Garner 2009). These texts draw on material across disciplines and expose students to critical race theorists not included in traditional sociological theory courses.

Collectively, these texts provide students with intellectual and social history, and help them grapple with the ways theory can be put into use in different areas of social life; at the same time these texts expose students to a gamut of thinkers across multiple disciplines.

Lastly, I deeply believe in mentoring and supporting the next generation of scholars.  During my thirteen years at DePaul University, along with multiple undergraduates, I have mentored thirty-six graduate students.  Although my current department does not grant Ph.D.’s, many of my students have gone on to enroll in Ph.D. programs at top universities, such as Indiana University, Northwestern University, and The University of Chicago.

In short, I see myself as an active teacher-scholar, committed to issues of diversity, equity, and social justice, both in my research and in my teaching. As my work shows, I have studied race and ethnicity in multiple contexts. In addition, I have been a passionate teacher about these issues and the theories around them for almost a decade, and feel that my experience and expertise in these areas challenges students to confront head on our challenges in negotiating a multi-racial and multicultural world.