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Last modified: Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Emily Fairchild

Lieber Memorial Teaching Associate Award -- Founders Day 2007

Doctoral Student in Sociology
Department of Sociology
College of Arts and Sciences
Indiana University Bloomington
B.A., Purdue University, 2000
M.A., Indiana University, 2003

Emily Fairchild

Emily Fairchild

Print-Quality Photo

A gifted sociology teacher demonstrates to students that concepts may seem abstract on the surface, but they spring from the real lives of actual people. In Emily Fairchild's classes, students learn not only to identify social problems such as racial inequality and gender stereotypes, but also to measure and ultimately challenge these phenomena.

Fairchild's students are not necessarily experienced researchers; they often are not even experienced college students. One of Fairchild's most notable teaching successes has occurred in a 100-level class, Race and Ethnicity in Everyday Life: Learning and Doing Sociology. To investigate the fairness of local law enforcement practices, her students analyzed statistics on revocation of suspended sentences and related the revocation rates to offenders' ethnic backgrounds. Department of Sociology Chair and Rudy Professor Thomas F. Gieryn comments on this ambitious project: "Working with the Monroe County Racial Justice Task Force, Emily obtained raw data from the city criminal justice system, showing a variety of characteristics for offenders (including race, but also length of sentence, for example). Then, rather than doing the analysis of these data herself, she turned them over to her students for analysis.

"Students coded the data, put them into a quantitative form, tested hypotheses, and substantiated their findings," Gieryn continues. "Emily created a project for her students that would be of political utility for the Bloomington criminal justice system and for the task force."

Because the research was conducted in partnership with local agencies, it was more than just a lecture course with a demanding fieldwork component. It also gave students an opportunity to serve the community. "This course was so informative and interesting," one student wrote on an evaluation, "because we got to do an actual study to make the concepts more concrete."

"I see these 'community-based research' courses as an important way of using sociology and course work at IU to the local community's benefit, and Emily has been the key instructor in pioneering community-based research in the department," says Robert V. Robinson, Class of 1964 Chancellor's Professor of Sociology.

Fairchild's dedication to helping others has been recognized numerous times. She received the Department of Sociology's Social Action Award in 2004, as well as its Stewart Family Scholarship (2006) and Sutherland Teaching Award (2006). She also received the university-wide John Edwards Fellowship for Scholarship and Service (2005-06).

Frequently reaching beyond her department, Fairchild has particularly distinguished herself in two campuswide teaching-improvement initiatives, the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL) project and the Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) program. She played a key role in a collaborative SOTL research project that investigated students' consumerist attitude toward higher education and co-presented findings on this research at several SOTL-affiliated events.

"Emily has invested even more time in our Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) program, now widely heralded as a model for getting Ph.D. candidates ready for careers in teaching," says Gieryn. As a PFF Fellow, Fairchild has chaired the steering committee for an annual conference sponsored by PFF that brings graduate students and beginning teachers to IU Bloomington to discuss pedagogical issues in higher education. In this capacity she also organized brown bag lunches, summer workshops, and seminars for IU associate instructors. "She has done so much," Gieryn adds, "to help other associate instructors become better teachers."

As part of her job as a PFF Fellow, Fairchild, who has completed a PFF training program that leads to a Certificate in Higher Education and Pedagogy, mentored 20 graduate students during their first year of teaching. She also served as a Faculty Fellow at DePauw University, shadowing a faculty member to gain firsthand experience in a liberal arts setting.

All of Fairchild's activities, from classroom teaching to research to mentoring of fellow graduate students, combine to set her apart. According to Assistant Professor Elizabeth Armstrong of the Department of Sociology, "Emily is a committed, devoted, and skilled classroom teacher. But she is also much more than that. She is also a dedicated and committed mentor, and, for someone so early in her career, she has contributed a great deal to the national conversation about how to teach sociology in ever more challenging, engaging, and creative ways."