My teaching career started rather unexpectedly and well before I thought it would. While still a junior at Black Hills State University, an administrator at the college’s satellite campus in Rapid City–where I was living and working–contacted me about serving as a part-time English tutor. Over the course of two academic years, I helped fellow students in English, History, and Political Science organize, craft, and refine term papers. In the process, I developed a passion for teaching that has never waned. I started teaching at the University of Iowa in 2012, and have since built a strong foundation of experience, for which I have received strong student evaluations and won the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award and the Henry Horowitz Prize for Best Syllabus for my teaching during the 2014-2015 academic year.


AINSP students view the tribal history exhibit at the Meskwaki Casino, 2014

Teaching requires thoughtful course design aimed at meeting myriad pedagogical goals. On one hand, as a historian and proponent of humanities education, introducing students to new ways of thinking is my highest aim. I select readings and design class discussions and assignments to support critical analysis and historical thinking for its own sake. On the other, I recognize that many students are deeply concerned with their employment prospects after graduation. I therefore aim to equip them with the skills necessary to think and communicate effectively, no matter their major or professional aspirations. Recognizing that most of my students are not History majors, I make every effort to convince them that historical thought, research, and writing can help them become even more productive citizens and members of society while showing that those same skills are the building blocks of any successful career.

In class, I alternate between different methods in order to reach a wide array of learning styles. Carefully prepared lectures, discussions, group work, primary source analyses, and final projects that contribute to a collective online exhibit all help achieve these goals. On the first day of class, I talk to students about the importance of discerning their own learning style, and encourage them to experiment with manual and typed note-taking, textual versus on-screen reading, and even in-class doodling. In the same way that I try to adapt to the needs of my students, I encourage them to tap into their most effective cognitive style. My classes are an open forum where any opinion, perspective, critique, or question–to me or other students–is fair game, as long as it’s presented in a respectful way.


Meskwaki language expert Conrad Brown talks with AINSP students in 2014

Finally, I make every effort to encourage students to call upon me at any time for course-related issues or for advice about graduate school or their careers. The first person in my immediate family to earn a four-year degree, I can relate with being confused and intimidated by a university. Frankly, I wouldn’t have made it this far if a few key instructors hadn’t reached out and helped me realize my academic and professional goals and potential. I owe them a debt that can only be repaid in kind. Accordingly, I have chatted with students about test anxiety, suggested internships, and even coached one student through his first academic conference presentation. In short, my door is always open, and I remain committed to doing whatever I can to furthering my students’ academic and career goals.