Teaching Philosophy

Neil Evernden has provocatively suggested that “we are not in an environmental crisis, but are the environmental crisis.” As both a researcher and a teacher, I have a passion for exploring the convergence of economic, social, political and cultural dimensions of the environmental crisis. My true love, however, lies in helping students understand the complicated ways in which the environmental crisis defines the current historical moment. When teaching environmental and food issues in the past, I have found that students often struggle to understand the profoundly interconnected nature of environmental problems and solutions, which often leads to a paralysis of action and a stagnation of the critical process. As such, both my teaching and research try to incorporate theoretical rigour with a sense of the possibilities for connecting knowledge with action. If we are the environmental crisis, then it will take much more than just technical solutions and scientific studies. It will take a generation that has the skills to understand how they are both implicated in the problem and crucial to the solution. It takes not only an analytical mind capable of drawing on a wide variety of disciplines and ways of knowing, but a poetic soul that can appreciate the value of what we are trying to save. To me, this means finding ways to balance the apocalyptic implications of the environmental crisis with a sense that a better world is possible.

I pride myself on being the kind of educator that tries to embody this goal not only in my research and teaching, but also in my personal choices and activities; indeed, all of these are deeply interconnected. I draw on my experience working on and running an organic farm, preserving food, and collaborating with non-profits and social enterprises as a model to encourage students to explore how the environmental crisis is forcing humanity to rethink our connection to the world and each other, and to invite them to draw on and initiate their own community projects. By situating abstract concepts such as food politics, globalization, social justice, and climate change within concrete and often personalized experiences, I find that students remain more engaged and begin to understand how environmental issues transcend conventional categories and disciplines. As a teacher, this is the moment I live for. When a student understands the immense difficulty ahead of humanity as an opportunity, rather than a curse, then I know I have done my job. This is the passion that sustains me, and the energy I bring to the classroom.

Teaching Experience

SUSTAIN 2A03 (Jan-April 2014): McMaster University, Sustainable Futures Program (Faculty of Engineering & Society). 2nd year, 140 Students. “The Sustainable Futures Project.” This course is designed to provide the skills that students need to become successful knowledge translators and mobilizers. Students are given assignments that develop their communications skills, asking them to translate policy, scientific studies, economic papers, and other “expert” documents into something an educated public would understand. This will give students the skills they need to excel in the community-based, action-oriented projects in 3A03, where students are asked to translate their knowledge of what is wrong into specific interventions on the level of the community. The ability to enter into productive, interdisciplinary dialogue with colleagues, peers, community groups, granting agencies, and each other, is crucial in empowering students to think of themselves as change agents.

SUSTAIN 3A03 (Sep-Dec 2013): McMaster University, Sustainable Futures Program. 3rd year, 40 students. “Societal Tools for Systemic Sustainable Change.” This course is designed to introduce students to a wide range of social, economic, political, and philosophical dimensions of sustainability. The class examines the concept of sustainability by focusing on specific case studies and examples in relation to larger questions of power, knowledge, and human and non-human agency. One of the main goals of the course is to provide students with the opportunity for experiential education and community service learning related to their personal passions and interests in sustainability. Students work with community partners to implement a real-world sustainability initiative of their choosing. In addition to facilitating these partnerships as an instructor, my teaching farm provides students with an opportunity to learn about sustainable farming, curriculum development, social enterprise, and local agriculture.

See the student projects at:  http://www.mcmaster.ca/sustainability/documents/3A03%20CR.pdf

CSCT 755 (Jan-April 2013) McMaster University: “Neoliberalism and the Limits of the Social: Debt and the Future.” Graduate Seminar, 9 students.  This class is designed to introduce students to the concept of neoliberalism as a social form, political structure, and economic system. Considerable focus is given to the concept of ecological and economic debt as a way to explore how neoliberalism affects class, gender, race, the everyday, and conceptions of the polis, nature, and futurity. In particular, we focus on the dialectic between utopia and dystopia as it is articulated through a wide variety of social movements opposing the marketization of life.

CT 340 (Sep-Dec 2012): Wilfrid Laurier: “Consumerism and Identities.” 3rd year, 60 Students. This course provides students with a historical understanding of consumer culture, how it emerged in the 19thcentury, what it is, and how various groups are resisting it. Particular focus is given to green and ethical consumerism as an example of forms of identity politics and consumer activism.

MX 202 (Jan-April 2012). Wilfrid Laurier: “Reading Media.” (Journalism and Media Studies). 2nd Year, 50 students. This course is designed to introduce students to a number of key concepts and ideas that will help them navigate the media landscape. We examine film, photography, news, music, advertisements, and social media for its ideological biases and underlying power relations, utilizing a wide variety of critical approaches that build student’s media literacy.

CT 202 (Sep-Dec 2011)  Wilfrid Laurier: “Science and Its Critics.” 2nd year, 26 students. This course examines scientific claims of truth by working through contemporary examples where science, public policy, perception, and other systems of knowledge clash, focusing especially on global warming, food science and nutritionism, Darwinism and creationism, genetic engineering, and the corporatization of scientific research.

CT 340 (Sep-Dec 2011) Wilfrid Laurier:  “Consumerism and Identities.”

2004-2011 Teaching Assistant, McMaster University, English and Cultural Studies.

Courses include: Modern Countercultures, Concepts of Culture, Consumer Culture, Popular Culture, Visual Culture, Cultural Studies, and Shorter Genres (total of 12 courses).

Community Food Advisor 2013-present: After finishing a twelve week training course, I have been certified to provide cooking classes and food demonstrations on healthy eating, cooking skills, and safe food handling to diverse populations. For example, I have created a cooking demonstration at Mohawk College that introduces students to the Good Food Box, an inexpensive food box that seeks to address barriers of accessibility and class when purchasing healthy, locally-sourced whole foods. My demonstration teaches students how to creatively use the produce they find in the box, how to stretch their food dollar, and save on time by planning for left-overs.

Instructor, Fresh City Farms. 2013-present. Working in partnership with fresh city farms, I have designed a hands-on, two hour workshop that introduces participants to the wonders of fermentation. After discussing the health benefits of fermented foods, we get our hands dirty and make a jar of sauerkraut that you get to take home and tend. You will also learn how to make Kimchi and the basics of fermenting pickles and other vegetables.