Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.– Paulo Freire
I teach a range of cultural anthropology courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, including: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology; Women & Development; Power & Resistance; Ethnography; History & Theory in Anthropology; and Methods of Applied Anthropology. In each class, I strive to build an inclusive learning community and to ensure that all students have the opportunity to thrive. To facilitate development of critical thinking skills – while connecting students to each other, course content, and the world – I employ a variety of active and collaborative approaches to learning, such as Socratic seminars, book clubs, digital storytelling, and applied research projects.
I first had Rebecca Robertson as a professor in The Anthropology of HIV/AIDS. During this time she demonstrated a thorough understanding of the topic and a passion for action. I was struck by her ability to present opposing ideologies, allow us room to wrestle with these ideas, and then present her own understanding of an idea. I often grow frustrated with professors who are either unable or unwilling to address their own bias. It is equally aggravating to sit through a course designed by a professor to indoctrinate students in their worldview. Professor Robertson was able to objectively analyze complex social situations while not getting completely lost in rationality. She poured her heart into the course with a contagious passion. After taking her class I was inspired to learn more about the complexity behind social ills, poverty, and unequal distribution of resources. Professor Robertson agreed to do an independent study with me on Economic Development and Public Health. The topics we covered and books I read proved to challenge me academically, mentally, and emotionally. Rebecca was right there alongside me, challenging me to confront my own assumptions and responsibility to others. She proved extremely knowledgeable on a wide range of topics. More importantly, she was not concerned with filling the grade but with actual, genuine learning. She helped me develop my ideas and thoroughly discuss how to apply my new knowledge into my real life. She also helped me to articulate my thoughts both orally and in writing (Student, BA Anthropology, class of 2009).
As a lecturer and advisor, Prof. Robertson builds individual relationships with her students while maintaining clear and professional boundaries. I came to HSU as a transfer student. In addition to a full course load, I was working 25-32 hours per week outside the University to support myself. With these circumstances, I was concerned about finding opportunities in which I could enhance my academic experiences. Professor Robertson worked with me to identify areas in which I could build my CV and helped me gain additional experience by providing to me opportunities as a teaching assistant for her Ethnography course and offering to oversee an independent study course. The mentorship she provided opened opportunities for me to excel in academics while at HSU, as well as an opportunity to jumpstart my career path at a consulting firm in Arcata. It is her dedication to the success of her students, like me, that made my time at HSU invaluable (Student, BA Anthropology, class of 2014).
It is an understatement to say that I would not be where I am, or as successful in my current pursuit of a PhD if it were not for Rebecca’s guidance while at HSU. I came back to school as an older student with the express expectation of finishing a degree quickly and going back to work. While all of the professors and lecturers I had the pleasure of taking classes with at HSU contributed to a shift in my general worldview, and what it might mean to be an academic, Rebecca stands out in terms of magnitude of influence. Graduate school or a career in academia was not a reality in the experience of my family, friends, or social circles because of economic or social constraints, but she encouraged me, provided information, and corrected expectations and assumptions. Her mentorship while I was a teaching assistant was invaluable for shaping my own methods in the classroom, and her insights on my scholarly work and writing have set me up to be successful in my current work (Student, BA Anthropology, class of 2015).
My teaching practice centers experiential learning, applied research, and student scholarship. Students in my courses learn by doing. For example, in research methods courses I mentor students through the research process, from project design through data collection and presentation, and work with them to disseminate their work publicly – including through presentation at professional conferences and publication. I also partner with local organizations to develop and incorporate place-based applied projects into my courses, wherein students have the opportunity to address real-world problems and to develop valuable skills and relationships that help prepare them for a wide range of career trajectories.
In the classroom Rebecca offers a blend of rigor and variability of class material and presentation. Her oral lectures complement the information presented on powerpoint slides and so students must lend a critical ear to the presentation in order to get the most out of each class. This is appreciated in contrast with lecturers who require students to copy powerpoint notes verbatim, or who speak on unrelated tangents in class. Further, she offers variability in learning opportunities throughout the semester by coordinating workshops, roundtable discussions, and guest speakers (in person and online video) in which we address theory. These efforts are much appreciated as they offered multiple angles to understanding class content and kept us engaged. Other aspects of Rebecca’s teaching that I appreciate is her fluidity and appropriate use of technology. We had (almost) weekly dialogues online and we took every exam online. She reliably used Canvas to post class requirements, homework, feedback on assignments and grades. Lastly, Rebecca’s character is very much valued by her students. She takes interest in the needs of individual students and also takes action when addressing concerns of class content and structure. Outside of the classroom this follows as well. She presented on important issues at the AAA conference in San Jose. On campus, she heads a mentoring program and student engagement events with the Anthropology club (Student, BA Anthropology, class of 2020).
Each class I had with Rebecca taught me or aided in the development of important skills including but not limited to: teamwork, conducting professional presentations, consolidating big ideas against a background of interesting details, exposure to and confrontation with the uncomfortable, the application of theory, and respecting colleagues for their differences in opinion and/or approach to social issues. In addition, Rebecca always made sure her students were equipped with the appropriate knowledge and resources required for student success in many forms. This included resources available through the department, the powerful information database that is the online world, and the campus library. I will forever be grateful for the technology workshops she made part of her curriculum; these sessions equipped us with powerful tools for academic storytelling (Student, BA Anthropology, class of 2018).
Both formally and informally Rebecca advised me with my studies and future career interests. She always is interested in helping students achieve their best in their studies and with their careers after graduation. Rebecca has an extensive knowledge of conducting qualitative research and I am incredibly grateful of how she shares that knowledge with students to train them in qualitative research methods in the graduate anthropology program. I learned invaluable skills from her course that I am still using today. Additionally, along with my other thesis committee members, Rebecca gave me feedback in order to complete and transform my master’s thesis into a final product I was very proud of. What is especially outstanding about Rebecca as a teacher is her positive and supportive attitude towards students. She makes students want to achieve their best and encourages them to develop confidence in their own abilities. Rebecca wrote a wonderful letter of recommendation for me, which helped me to obtain my current Fulbright Scholarship (Student, MA Applied Anthropology, Class of 2017).
I have known Professor Rebecca Robertson since my first semester at HSU, at that time she was instructing us in data analysis. During my internship, Professor Robertson assisted me by reviewing, critiquing and assisting me in designing professional survey questions and in analyzing the data after. Ultimately Professor Robertson became my thesis advisor and I communicated with her on a regular basis for a year. She helped me organize my time so that I could complete sections of my thesis in a timely manner. She also was very supportive in helping me see where sections of my thesis were deficient either in content or writing. And, a number of times she helped me to not become overwhelmed during the final weeks of editing (Student, MA Applied Anthropology, class of 2017).
Presenting their work publicly, whether online or at professional conferences, provides students the opportunity to develop valuable communication, technical, and professional skills.
With the encouragement, guidance, and professional skill advancement that I have personally received from Rebecca, I was able to grow my 10-week monograph into an ongoing 1-year research project. Since then, I have presented my research not only on campus at Ideafest in April 2018, but also at the Anthropological Association of America annual meeting this past November in San Jose, CA. With her continued guidance, I will be presenting a paper at the international Pop-Culture Association annual meeting in Washington D.C. this April (Student, BA Anthropology, class of 2020).
In November, I had the opportunity to present research at the American Anthropological Association’s annual conference in San Jose, California. In the months leading up to the conference, I was able to take advantage of the collaboration space that Rebecca established. She has created a research lab and community room where students can feel supported by their fellow peers and herself. Often times, she would pop her head out of her office to assist with my presentation or work with me through my ideas. Her commitment to my success resulted in a strong presentation. Not only did I feel her support while in the lab, but also at my presentation in San Jose. She attended the panel session, along with my fellow peers from Humboldt State University, to show her support for the work I had completed. My peers and I were able to attend her panel presentation regarding student activism. This presentation demonstrated Rebecca’s commitment to innovative scholarship and social justice. Her work displayed important issues that are happening on campuses across the country, and utilized technology to enhance how anthropologists conduct ethnographies (Student, BA Anthropology, class of 2019).