My teaching philosophy aims to inspire life-long learners who are critical, independent, and creative in their thinking. To achieve this, I combine inquiry-based education with participatory pedagogy to build reflexive, equitable, and collaborative learning environments. Through dialogical and co-creative methods like audiovisual storytelling and ethnographic poetry, my undergraduate and graduate students engage with anthropological research, knowledge, and theories in dynamic ways. For example, in my audiovisual methods course, Co-Creative Documentary: Introduction to Digital Storytelling, each student creates a first-person audiovisual narrative and learns about the affordances and challenges of audiovisual methods through practice. Over the duration of the semester, students write critical response papers to engage with key texts, develop central questions for their audiovisual essay, write a monologue that addresses the essential themes, develop an accompanying storyboard, and edit their video for screening in class. The production process begins with theoretical foundations in storytelling from thinkers like Walter Benjamin, Michael Jackson, and Claudia Rankine. From there, we discuss Hannah Arendt’s concept of “political listening” and David MacDougall’s argument for the “corporeal image.” Students employ these ideas to analyze how artists like Tatiana Huezo and John Akomfrah evoke politically complex ideas through image and sound. For their final video essays, students have pursued subjects such as religious identity, family portraits of migration, climate justice activism, and mental health, among others. This course is among the highest-evaluated at the University of Bern. In particular, students appreciate the course design of exploring theory through audiovisual practice.
I first gained expertise in teaching as a community educator with the Salvadoran Center for Appropriate Technology in El Salvador and later as an educator and teacher trainer at Pima County Community College (1998-2004) in Tucson, Arizona working with Mexican-American, Mexican, and Central American women and children. As an MA and Ph.D. student at the University of Arizona (2004-2008) and as a doctoral researcher at the Dublin Institute of Technology (2008-2014), I developed my first college seminars for undergraduate students and adult learners.
Since joining the Institute of Social Anthropology as a researcher and visiting lecturer in 2016, my courses are consistently among the top 5% of excellence in student evaluations at the University of Bern. I am convinced that my long-term experience teaching in community-based and governmental contexts has set a firm foundation for excellence in teaching at the university level. Engaging with dialogical methods like co-creative audiovisual production, I aim for students to leave my courses with greater confidence in their abilities to theorize and shape their place in the world.
In 2020, the Humanities Faculty of the University of Bern awarded me their excellence in teaching award for my course, “Imagining Otherwise: Social Movements for Livable Futures in the Sonoran Borderlands.”