Summary of Teaching Philosophy:
Environmental changes, policies, and struggles are the products of historical processes. My objective as an Africanist environmental historian is to instruct students by facilitating an exploration of varied historical materials to understand processes that too often create degradation and injustice. But by understanding these processes, students also gain analytical tools to use in creating a better future. By fostering this knowledge through my teaching, I enable students of all genders from varied racial, socio-economic, cultural, generational, and disciplinary backgrounds to work for a more just, equitable, and sustainable future. These objectives are illustrated in my past and present teaching experiences,
Environment, Health, and Justice
Lecturer, Tufts University, Spring 2021
How is it that poor people, especially people of color, endure the worst effects of climate change, deforestation, and pollution? How has this situation of injustice developed over time? Moreover, how have people mobilized to change this situation? This research seminar probes these questions through case studies from Africa and the United States. Students examine, for instance, the social and ecological dimensions of mining, urban infrastructures, and industrial agriculture with special emphasis on how the injustices that emerge from such activities affect human health. Each case explores questions about power, race, gender, and class. Course materials will include Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement (2018) by sociologist Monica White; Unbowed (2006), the memoir of Kenyan activist Wangari Maathai; and Blood on the Mountain, a 2016 documentary film about coal mining in West Virginia.
Critical Perspectives on ‘Development’ in African History
Lecturer, Tufts University, Spring 2019 & Spring 2020
What exactly is ‘development’? This seminar will probe this question in the context of African history by examining the ideas, institutions, and conflicts behind this concept. Case studies from different parts of the continent will be used to highlight the diversity of African experiences with ‘development’ from the late-1800s to the present. Students will study cases under four categories: Agriculture & Livestock; Human Health; Wildlife Conservation; and Big Dams. Important themes to be explored in each case are environmental change, colonialism, capitalism, international institutions, science, social inequality, race, and gender. Students will engage with readings in history and anthropology as well as a novel by Bessie Head, When Rain Clouds Gather (1968). Film will also be used too, such as the environmental historical documentary about Liberia and the Firestone Company called The Land Beneath Our Feet (2017).
Reconstructing Africa’s Past to 1850
Lecturer, Tufts University, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021
Students in this course will study African history and culture from earliest times to the eve of European imperial expansion in Africa. Important topics will be early patterns of settlement and cultural interaction; origins of African states; development of regional trading systems; and the nature and impact of Africa’s participation in global trade. Each week we will engage with new sources for examining early African history including archaeology, poetry, oral tradition, memoir, and fiction. Key texts will include Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali by D.T. Niane, and The Life and Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros by the Ethiopian writer, Galawdewos.
Modern African History: 1850 – Present
Lecturer, Tufts University, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021
This course offers students an introduction to African history. In so doing, it provides historical context to (mis)representations of Africa and fosters understanding of the historical dimensions of contemporary problems on the continent. In other words, students will understand how present day Africa – its diversity, politics, problems, and culture – came to be. To accomplish this, we follow a chronological narrative that begins around the time of European colonization in the later 1800s and ends near the present day. Some important themes are the evolution of ethnic and national identities, the changing relationships between Africans and their environments, the experiences of different social groups (eg. women and men), “gatekeeper” politics, and the economies of the colonial and post-colonial periods. Secondary texts, primary sources, and film form the bulk of course materials. Readings include The Joys of Motherhood, a novel by Nigerian writer Buchi Emecheta, and King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild.
The Environment in Africa’s Past and Present
Lecturer, Boston University, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020
Students in this writing seminar learn to pose analytical questions, form arguments through research, and buttress claims with evidence. The course centers on three major papers and students submit multiple drafts for peer review and instructor feedback, which I provide during individual conferences. Class sessions blend writing workshops, group discussions, primary source analysis, and film. I also built an interactive course website using the platform called Digication where all materials are posted. As a final assignment, students generate their own digital portfolios that document their research and writing experiences. I taught this course as WR 100 in the Fall 2016 semester, and I am currently teaching it to a different group as WR 150, which is the second part of the freshman writing sequence at BU. WR 150 follows a similar curriculum but requires more independent work by students to frame their projects and conduct research. Using this structured writing curriculum has allowed me to hone my classroom methods for teaching the technical and theoretical aspects of research and writing as essential skills for participating in wider conversations.
World History since 1500
Instructor, Boston University, Summer 2014 & Summer 2017; Tufts University, Summer 2020 & Summer 2021
In 2014, the Department of History invited me to teach this modern world history course during summer session. I created a syllabus for the six week session in which I sought to facilitate students’ introduction to the broad themes in global history such as the circulation of ideas, technological change, imperialism, political revolutions, and environmental change. Students wrote three short papers based on the secondary and primary sources, films, and lectures from class. I found the six week time frame challenging, but I also found it conducive to focusing on the big questions of global history without getting bogged down in too many details. For instance, students pondered how the historical processes of globalization shaped the contours of wealth and poverty in today’s world. As a mixed group of undergraduates and older non-traditional students, my class engaged in discussion of readings from various genres such as Bao Ninh’s novel The Sorrow of War and Stephen Kinzer’s journalistic book All the Shah’s Men. For my summer 2017 version of this course, I am planning four day trips in the Boston area so that students can interact with material from museums and historic sites.
World History since 1500
Teaching Fellow, Boston University, Spring 2013, Spring 2014 and Spring 2016
I have assisted professors in teaching this course three times. Working with Professor Betty Anderson, I facilitated weekly group discussions of her course which, in its approach, brought students around the world three times to cover the vast 500 years of global history. In my supporting role, I also delivered a guest lecture on the Columbian Exchange. Professor Anderson and I each led discussion groups following our readings of three world literature classics that included Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. In subsequent work for this course, I supported Professor Simon Payaslian over two different semesters by leading break-out discussion groups and delivering guest lectures on South African history and the place of sugar in modern history. For both professors, I met with students during regular office hours to read rough drafts of papers and help them prepare for exams.
History of War
Teaching Fellow, Boston University, Fall 2012 and Fall 2015
During two different semesters I assisted Professor Cathal Nolan in teaching this popular course. Nolan is renowned for his deep knowledge of global conflicts, his powerful lectures, and his use of evocative imagery in his teaching. I held weekly sessions for discussing the readings, which were often filled with emotionally challenging material such as John Keegan’s The Face of Battle. Students sought my support for their writing of two academic book reviews and in their preparation for exams. In working this course twice, I learned about diverse experiences of war from the European conquest of the Americas to modern conflicts in central Africa. Furthermore, Professor Nolan provided me with valuable materials for teaching about these conflicts.
What is Europe?
Teaching Fellow, Boston University, Summer 2014
Professor Phillip Haberkern invited me to assist him in the Summer 2014 semester by teaching a portion of his new course offering. Students in this class explored how Europe became what it is today through its interactions with other parts of the world. My job was to deliver one lecture and facilitate learning about imperialism in Africa with special focus on the missionary endeavor. To prepare for the lecture students read excerpts from Joseph Conrad, David Livingstone, and Robert Moffat which we then analyzed as a way to understand how nineteenth-century European readers of these texts shaped their own identities by conceiving of Africa and Africans in stark contrast to themselves. Professor Haberkern and I also led students in exploring visual sources at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts as a way to open up a critical lens for seeing the European interaction with the Islamic world. In their writing assignments that followed, students elaborated on how these interactions shaped Europe as a place, a people, and a concept.
History of International Relations, 1900-1945
Teaching Fellow, Boston University, Fall 2013
Working with three other graduate students, I assisted Professor William Keylor in teaching this popular course which surveys world diplomatic histories across the early twentieth century. In addition to hosting office hours, I held two weekly discussion sections where I facilitated student debates of such complex and important international relations as the creation of the Middle East Mandates after WW I and American foreign policy in Latin America under Teddy Roosevelt.
English Language and Literature
English Teacher, Tsoelike High School, Lesotho, 2007-2009
As a United States Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Lesotho (southern Africa), I taught English and math to the same group of fifty-six students for two years. Using limited resources to teach this group of English Language Learners (ELL), I developed in-class activities designed to empower all students, even those with minimal literacy skills. For instance, after arranging the class into small groups, students took turns defining a given English word to their group-mates who then had to guess the word based on the verbal clues. I facilitated this activity, which became a student favorite, through multiple timed rounds to shift the responsibilities within the groups. Apart from participatory approaches to teaching, and in a less glamorous part of the job, I prepared my students at Tsoelike for a national high-stakes examination by leading writing and reading drills aimed at improving their responses to exam questions within time constraints. Outside of the classroom, I served as the class (administrative) teacher for this group while also working with a group of students to create a new school library that was supported by the African Library Project, an international organization committed to promoting literacy.
United States & World History; Community Service Learning
History Teacher, Longmeadow High School, Longmeadow, MA, 2004-2007
Over the course of three school years as a high school teacher I taught World History, 450 C.E. – 1800 to freshmen, World History, 1800-Present to sophomores, US History, 1865-Present to juniors, and a senior elective, which I designed, called Community Service Learning. At the forefront of my approach, I planned and executed courses to stimulate student interest, enhance critical thinking, improve reading and writing skills, and foster interest in the humanities. My methods included primary source analysis, digital research, historical literature and film, and structured debates. As an example of both approach and method, I often had students respond to various writing prompts in class, ranging from thirty minute essays about the previous week’s theme to five minute open responses about a historical artifact, or a particular image or text projected on a screen. In addition to my instructional and administrative duties, the daily interactions with my students as a teacher, advisor, and mentor were the most gratifying experiences of the job. My knowledge of curriculum building, broad-based historical content, and diverse teaching methods grew from my work at the high school level.