Teaching & Mentoring
I really enjoy teaching and mentoring students. My primary goal in each of my classes is to prepare students to be informed citizens who readily question assumptions and can craft independent, evidence-based perspectives. In both the substantive and methods courses I teach, I emphasize the importance of empirical data and analytic reasoning, and actively encourage students to apply what they are learning to current events and social problems.
At USC, I teach two undergraduate-level courses:
GESM 160g (Population and Social Change): This is a quantitative reasoning GE seminar that I designed to introduce freshman to demographic analysis. The course offers students an introduction to quantitative social science and demonstrates the value of quantitative analysis for studying social issues. The primary goals of the course are to teach students key measures and methods for analyzing population data and how to interpret visual representations of data. The course begins by introducing students to the state of the world’s population, highlighting variation in the demography of contemporary world regions. We use this knowledge throughout the remainder of the course as we analyze different population processes, and discuss how each contribute to the world’s population today. For example, students learn different models of growth and how to estimate and track changes in the size of populations, calculate and compare fertility measures, calculate and interpret the life table, compare population pyramids, and calculate migration rates. In addition to mastering methods for studying macro-level population change, I also teach students how to quantify population processes of smaller aggregates such as urbanization, racial segregation, and household and family change. Weekly problem sets allow students to demonstrate the analytic skills they have acquired, and in class discussion and current events assignments enables them to imagine their broader social relevance. Students are often surprised by the statistics that they learn and the extent of inequality that defines our globe today. It is a pleasure to witness students have fun with math and to relate population issues to their respective discipline and to the social issues that concern them.
SOCI 335 (Society and Population): My primary goal in this discussion-based course is for students to apply their sociological perspective to population processes. The course teaches students about key population processes—fertility, migration, and mortality—and how they influence, and are influenced by, a broad range of social issues. Each segment of the course directly engages the knowledge that students have acquired in their required sociology courses, including social theory and research methods, as well as other elective seminars, such as social problems. Although the course focuses primarily on population processes in the U.S. context, I provide students with a global perspective to help them contextualize the domestic trends we discuss. Over the course of the semester, students conduct a detailed “population comparison” of Los Angeles and another California county. This assignment requires that they conduct research, collect statistics, create visual representations of data, and describe and synthesize key distinctions between the two populations. Students report the course helps them to synthesize the sociology curriculum they have completed at USC.
Note to USC undergraduate students interested in research: E-MAIL me! I'm happy to meet with you to discuss research opportunities through university programs including SOAR, SURF, and the Provost's Research Fellowships.
I also teach two graduate-level courses:
SOCI 625 (Demographic Methods): This is as an applied methods course. I teach students key methods for studying populations including the life table, decomposition, and standardization, which they demonstrate mastery of through weekly problem sets. The course also allows students to improve their Excel skills—a software commonly used by quantitative social scientists. Students complete weekly excel spreadsheet exercises that teach them how to create visual representations of data and generally improve their skills in the program. The final project requires that students submit a full analysis (or analysis plan) for the data they are currently using in their own research. The course offers students a strong foundation in demographic analysis.
SOCI 656 (Social Demography): This seminar course introduces PhD students to the field of demography and key demographic theories. In doing so, a primary goal of the seminar is to train students to synthesize readings, identify limitations and shortcomings of the research we review, and to identify the next logical steps of inquiry. To accomplish this goal, each week students read at least five research articles centered on an area of population studies and write a concise reflection paper. I offer detailed feedback on the reflection papers, and emphasize the goal of synthesizing—not summarizing—the readings and raising questions for future research. To encourage professional development, a team of students serve as discussion leaders each week, requiring that they identify common threads in their colleagues’ reflection papers and direct class discussion. The students develop an empirical paper over the course of the semester, and I provide feedback on its development. My goal is that the paper becomes a draft of the PhD program’s required empirical paper or a chapter of their dissertation. I encourage students to submit the paper to an annual conference and eventually for publication.