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Last modified: Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Gail M. McGuire

Distinguished Teaching Award -- The Sylvia E. Bowman Award

Associate Professor and Chair, Sociology and Anthropology
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
University Graduate School
IU South Bend
Appointed to IU faculty, 1997
B.A., University of Connecticut, Storrs, 1989
M.A., University of Illinois, 1991
Ph.D., The Ohio State University, 1997

Gail McGuire

Gail McGuire (right)

Print-Quality Photo

Gail McGuire's students tend to leave her classes with an expanded worldview, as her end-of-semester course evaluations attest. "I learned a lot about how the world works outside of the U.S., and I feel it needs to be taught more often," writes one student.

"Prior to this class, I had no interest in sociology at all," writes another. "This course . . . really opened my eyes to the world around me."

Not only are her students becoming more aware of sociological concepts, they're becoming more confident learners who are engaged in the learning process. When Neovi Karakatsanis, chair of IU South Bend's Department of Political Science, sat in on one of McGuire's classes, she noted a multifaceted teaching style that incorporated lecture, class discussion, and small-group work to foster equal input from all members of the class.

"During the lecture, she drew from her own life experience, from popular culture, and from the experiences of her students to illustrate sociological concepts," Karakatsanis says. "Gail did not allow a small group of people to dominate the entire discussion, as so often happens. Instead, she randomly drew cards with students' names on them to assure that quiet students had as equal a chance to participate and share their views as their more extroverted classmates."

McGuire, chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology since 2007, uses an approach that focuses on active learning, peer collaboration, and a balance of rigor and support. Active learning can take the form of class field trips to McDonald's and the South Bend Chocolate Company to compare routinization in manufacturing and service work as well as personalized assignments that speak to students' individual passions. For the very same research assignment in her Quantitative Research Methods course, a future law student examined women's fear of crime, a counselor for sex offenders examined parents' knowledge of sex offenders, and a financial planner studied people's confidence in the stock market. "The ownership over learning that occurs as a result of these projects also encourages students to continue working on their projects even after the class has ended," McGuire says.

Her active fostering of collaboration rather than competition fuels a positive classroom environment. "Having the opportunity to work with peers in group projects allows students to ask questions they might be reluctant to ask in class and helps them to realize that they can learn from their peers as well as me," she says.

Recognizing that the IU South Bend student body contains many nontraditional, first-generation college students, McGuire uses humor and encouragement to help students feel comfortable taking risks on the rigorous, challenging material they must master and build upon. She provides continual feedback, commenting on students' drafts of papers before the due date and taking time for one-on-one mentoring to help students choose research topics and hone their ideas. To put students at ease before handing back the first paper in Quantitative Research Methods, McGuire brings in copies of her own dissertation chapters, covered in the red ink of her advisor's pen. IUSB Professor of Sociology Michael F. Keen says this approach leads many of McGuire's students to succeed beyond their expectations.

McGuire has developed several new courses for the department, including Research Conference Practicum and The Social Practice of Writing. One of her greatest contributions, Keen says, is her involvement with the Midwest Student Sociology Conference. "In 2001, Gail served as the organizer and host for the conference on our campus," Keen says. "Gail's conference was one of the most successful ever held, with over 75 students presenting papers and more than 100 students in attendance, as well as at least a dozen faculty members from colleges and universities in the region."

McGuire has successfully secured grants for her research—most significantly the Elkhart Community Development Research Grant ($14,500)—and her work has been published in journals such as Work and Occupations, National Women's Studies Association Journal, Gender and Society, and Social Problems. She has helped 15 students publish their research and has served as a faculty mentor for nearly 50 students who have received research grants and more than 70 students who have presented papers at conferences. Her awards include the STARs (Students Together Able and Respected) Teacher of the Year Award in 1998; the Trustees' Teaching Award in 2002, 2006, and 2008; and the IU South Bend Distinguished Teaching Award in 2005. She is an inspiration to her colleagues. Says Keen: "As a result of Gail's example, I believe I have become a more effective advisor, teacher, and mentor."