Teaching

Courses Offered 2016-2017

Fall 2016

Situation Critical: Digital Cultural Criticism and the Contemporary Museum

The Computerized Society: US Digital Culture Since WWII

Winter 2017

Digitizing Folk Music History

US Popular Music History

Courses Offered 2015-2016

Fall 2015

The Computerized Society: US Digital Culture Since WWII

Approaching Digital History: Methods Seminar

The Sixties: From Memory To History (seminar in Masters of Liberal Studies program)

Winter 2016

US Popular Music History

Digitizing Folk Music History

Courses Offered 2013-2014

The Challenge of the Citizen-Scholar: Graduate Engagement Opportunities Colloquium

American Popular Music: A Cultural History

Digitizing Folk Music History: The Berkeley Folk Music Festival Project

Introduction to Cultural Analysis & Social Criticism

The Computerized Society: Digital Culture the United States

Approaching Digital History


History & American Studies Courses

  • United States Since 1865
  • United States Since 1893
  • United States Since 1945
  • United States Cultural History
  • United States Intellectual History
  • Introduction to American Studies
  • Popular Culture and American History, 1776-2001
  • American Culture in the World, 1776-2001
  • History of American Consumerism, 1776-2001
  • What Was the Sixties Counterculture?
  • The Sixties From Memory to History
  • The Computerized Society: United States Digital Culture Since World War II
  • How Does It Feel?: Sensory History
  • The History of History: Methodologies of Historical Inquiry

Digital Humanities & Digital History Courses

  • Introduction to Digital Humanities
  • Approaching Digital History
  • The Computerized Society: United States Digital Culture Since World War II
  • Digitizing Folk Music History
  • Situation Critical: Cultural Criticism and the Contemporary Museum

Civic Engagement Courses

  • Situation Critical: Cultural Criticism and the Contemporary Museum
  • The Challenge of the Citizen-Scholar: Graduate Engagement Opportunity Colloquium

Cultural Studies Courses

  • Introduction to Cultural Analysis
  • Citizenship and the Public Sphere in Historical Perspective

Music/Sound Courses

  • US Popular Music History
  • Rock Music: A Cultural History
  • Digitizing Folk Music History
  • Hearing the Past: Sound History

Teaching Philosophy

My goal as a teacher is to help students develop skills of analysis and communication grounded in a deeper understanding of the past. A consistent theme in all my courses is engagement with primary sources: students work not only work with written texts, but also with music, film, radio, television, maps, speeches, architecture, urban space, and the visual arts. Then, through multimedia-based lectures, classroom activities, field trips, guest speakers, and projects, students and I seek to contextualize source materials by applying different methodological approaches, examining past debates, and linking classroom study to broader issues of public life.

I believe the classroom can be a far richer environment if it moves beyond the standard lecture format. In my courses, students conduct interviews, develop Internet websites, attend intellectual events of interest, go on field trips, and even act out the past themselves. For example, to investigate industrialization in the United States during the nineteenth century, my students break up into three groups—upper-class owners, working-class laborers, and middle-class managers—to debate the question posed by the American Social History Project: Who built America? Utilizing materials they have read and studied, each group of student makes their case. Once, my “working-class laborer” students staged a strike and threatened to walk out of the classroom!

I have also grown interested in how to teach effective historical writing. In my U.S. History Since 1865 course, I work with the Northwestern Writing Center to develop a set of related assignments that serve as building blocks toward a final essay. Students move through assignments on the component parts of a successful piece of analytic writing: a thesis; a successful body paragraph that analyzes evidence; introduction; conclusion; and transitions between sections of an essay. As they work on these smaller assignments, students receive feedback on their writing. The assignment culminates in a final essay in which students put together the materials and the writing skills they worked on during the term.

More recently, I have explored the use of digital tools for historical writing: students in my research seminar use annotation software, database tables, and interactive mechanisms to better track how they are moving from evidence to interpretation; digital technology becomes a way not of speeding up, but rather of slowing down the writing process so that students can begin to examine and improve their analytic skills.

I have also worked extensively with graduate students. I encourage graduate students to delve into both primary sources and historiographical debates through intensive reading, discussion, and writing. I have also overseen thesis projects on a range of topics: American nurses in the Vietnam War; the development of Old Town as a countercultural neighborhood in 1960s Chicago; the emergence of the contemporary craft movement; portrayals of the Civil War in high school textbooks; “scramble” marching bands at U.S. universities in the 1960s; and muckraking novels during the Progressive Era. Interacting with and mentoring graduate students has been one of my most rewarding intellectual experiences as a teacher and scholar. Most recently, I have introduced a course, Introduction to Cultural Analysis, in which students draw upon a wide range of intellectual sources to help shape their particular research interests.

My teaching of history also extends beyond the classroom. Museums, historical societies, outside speakers, film screenings, plays, concerts, and other institutions and events provide new pathways to knowledge. For instance, in a course I taught to gifted high school students on the cultural history of the Americas, we traveled to Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art to learn about an exhibition focused on the Brazilian Tropicalia arts movement. Meeting with the show’s curator, students learned about the decisions that determined which art objects were chosen and why. The class had an opportunity to see how the history of Tropicalia—its controversial aesthetics and continued political relevance in Brazil—affected the creation of a contemporary museum exhibition. I have also taught courses in the emerging field of public humanities, including a graduate colloquium for students pursuing civic engagement opportunities as well as an upcoming Northwestern University course that will convene at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Students will learn about the museum world while practicing digital cultural criticism in a contemporary museum setting.

Increasingly, I am focusing on teaching digital history. In a course called Digitizing Folk Music History, students develop interpretive digital research projects based on primary sources in the Berkeley Folk Music Festival Collection at Northwestern University. Students not only acquire digital skills and literacy in the course and learn more about the folk music revival, they also confront basic methodological questions in historical scholarship: how does one frame a research question, describe existing interpretations, and offer a new analysis based on archival sources? Helping students to think about these questions, my digital history course looks toward future versions of history in the digital era while also suggesting to students that this future reinvigorates core aspects of historical study. I also teach a lecture course on the history of digital culture itself since World War II and a methods seminar on digital history.

Above all else, my pedagogical philosophy is grounded in the concept of critical thinking. Bringing together primary materials, raising relevant questions, mapping out explanatory problems and quandaries, connecting the classroom to public life, and helping students improve their skills of communication, I work to foster an atmosphere in which students can discover and relish history as a deeply relevant field of intellectual inquiry.