Graduate Spotlight:
Sam Maron

Sam Maron
Doctoral Candidate, Sociology
Northeastern University

What made you interested in studying sociology at Northeastern?
I’d been involved with global and environmental justice campaigns for many years before deciding to go for a master’s in environmental studies at Antioch University New England. I didn’t have a background in sociology, so it was while working on my master’s thesis that I discovered sociology and found a vibrant field committed to understanding and critiquing social problems. I quickly knew that continuing to a PhD program was the path for me. I wanted to come to the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Northeastern because of the strong focuses in the sociology of globalization, social movements, and urban sociology, which are my areas of specialization. There were a lot of great faculty that I wanted to work with as well.

How has CATLR helped you in the development of your teaching?
I knew when I came to graduate school that I wanted to teach, and I also knew that teaching is a skill I had to learn. I have been to several CATLR workshops and found them to be really useful in presenting research-based ideas and strategies for better teaching. I particularly liked the one on how to facilitate better class discussions. I also found the teaching statements workshop helpful in thinking about writing a teaching statement and presenting myself in a compelling way. I’ve also appreciated the workshop on aligning the components of your course. I realized the course I was teaching at that time wasn’t very well aligned, but I learned some better ways to think about it for the next time.

I’ve benefited from CATLR, and it’s a really fantastic resource that not every university has. I would encourage anyone, any grad student interested in teaching or interested in teaching better, to come to CATLR events.

Can you tell me about the courses you have taught?
This summer for the first time, I’m currently teaching Introduction to Sociology. It’s been rewarding and fun to introduce this field to students, who are mostly not majors, and to guide them to think sociologically about their own interests and about the world. As an intensive summer class, I try to mix up the class time between lectures, discussions, and in-class projects. For two years now, I’ve also taught our first-year seminar for sociology and anthropology majors. I’ve really enjoyed teaching it because it’s a chance to get them excited about studying sociology and anthropology, and also to learn about the many opportunities that Northeastern offers.

My first time teaching was actually in the Political Science Department several years ago, when they needed someone to step into a class that was already underway. I was asked if I would be interested in teaching it, because it was on the topic of the Olympic games, sports, and international affairs, which is very close to what my dissertation is about.

I agreed to teach it, but I had never taught before, so I came to CATLR and talked with Hilary [Schuldt], Director of Project and Team Strategy at CATLR. She helped me come up with a syllabus and design some assignments that would be appropriate for a class that I had a matter of days to prepare for. It was a crash course on teaching, but also it was a nice introduction to turning my research interests into a class.

I loved being able to share my interests and to teach. I think many of the students in that class were interested in sports in general, but I don’t think they thought critically about sport in these kinds of ways, as an area with political meaning and consequences. I had them approach the Olympic games from a variety of sociological, political, and anthropological lenses. By the end of the semester they wrote research projects on the Olympics or sports-related topic of their choice. A number of them said that they really enjoyed the class and it got them to think about this event, that they had watched casually before, in a totally new way.

Can you tell me about your research?
My dissertation is about how global culture and power are produced through mega-events in cities. I look at the ways that event bids shape city identity, and the implications for democracy. Specifically, I’m using the recent Olympic bids in Boston and Los Angeles as comparative case studies. One obviously failed and one was “successful,” so I’m looking at how and why cities bid for the Olympic games and what the meaning of the games is to the contemporary global city.

I enjoy occasionally watching sports like most people do, but the Olympics for me isn’t about sports, it’s about the meaning of the event to the city. They’re so expensive, they take a lot of political capital, a lot of cultural capital, and then produce this event that people watch for two weeks and then it’s gone. But the reality is that it’s not gone for the people of the city who have to live with the construction, with the preparations, with the attention. My project is figuring out what that means and why.

Do you have any advice for those looking to teach?
I think teaching is a skill that takes practice, and there’s also a lot of research about teaching and how to do it better. I think anyone who has the opportunity to teach should take it seriously and treat it like an opportunity, to both share your passion and also to teach students how to think about a new topic that they haven’t thought about.

Can you talk about your experience in the Future Faculty Program?
I joined the Future Faculty Program this year because I wanted a structured path to improving my teaching. The variety of workshops I’ve attended have helped me connect different threads of teaching and think seriously about my role as an educator and how this fits into academic work. All of this has helped me in my current teaching and will be useful when I go on to the academic job market.

What does it mean to you to be both an educator and a learner?
As a PhD student worker I have a dual role: on the one hand I am being trained how to be a researcher, and on the other hand I am also doing essential work for the university by TAing, by teaching classes. And I take both of those roles seriously, and I think they are complementary. They’re both important to shaping how I approach education, since education happens outside of the classroom as much as in the classroom.