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Last modified: Monday, March 24, 2008

David D. Blouin

Lieber Memorial Teaching Associate Award

Doctoral Student in Sociology
Department of Sociology
College of Arts and Sciences
Indiana University Bloomington
B.A., Wittenberg University, 1997
M.A., Indiana University, 2003

"It is not always easy at a major research-driven university like IU to get undergraduates involved in the production of new knowledge; David Blouin has done this superbly well, and his students are the beneficiaries."

--Thomas F. Gieryn, Rudy Professor and Chair, Department of Sociology, Indiana University Bloomington

Associate Instructor David Blouin's sociology students step into a lecture hall and instantly become real sociologists who research and reach their own conclusions, but they don't stay in the classroom long. Blouin's innovative service-learning courses require student sociologists to spend 30 hours volunteering in the community.

"David Blouin is the poster child for teaching sociology in a way that benefits the community in practical ways while enriching the lives of students through service," says Thomas F. Gieryn, Rudy Professor and chair of the IU Bloomington Department of Sociology.

Blouin merges his passion for teaching through service learning with his sociological research on human-animal relations. He challenged his students to design a survey that would assess pet owners' attitudes toward and relationships with their animals for the Monroe County Humane Association. The students collected, entered, and analyzed data, providing most students with their first opportunity to do in-depth research. "His students from Day One were charged with doing sociological research—a refreshing change from reading about what others have discovered," Gieryn continues. The information collected from almost 600 local pet owners benefited not just Bloomington residents, but also their dogs and cats.

Dedicated to improving his teaching methods, Blouin conducts his own research on teaching and learning. His students are required to evaluate and critique course readings and lectures on quizzes and exams. "In my teaching I strive to pass on the wonder of the sociological perspective as well as the practical tools it provides," Blouin says.

Blouin consistently receives high marks from students for his organization, enthusiasm, preparedness, and ability to encourage discussion. Bernice Pescosolido, Distinguished and Chancellor's Professor of Sociology, says that a review of his course materials "reveals all of the hallmarks of excellence -- organization, rigor, and enthusiasm."

On the first day of class, Blouin asks students for personal information and anecdotes, as well as their favorite movies, television shows, books, musicians, and topics they would like to discuss in class. He uses the students' responses to make sociology relevant to their interests. He often opens class with a discussion of relevant current events. One student evaluation said that he "always had stories to elaborate on the lecture materials, so concepts were easier to understand, remember, and apply."

Blouin's commitment to sociology research and teaching has not gone unnoticed. In 2007 the Indiana University Department of Sociology awarded him the Edwin H. Sutherland Award for Excellence and Commitment to Teaching. The American Sociological Association also recognized him with a SAGE and Pine Forge Teaching Innovations and Professional Development Award.

Blouin collaborated in 2007 with fellow graduate student Evelyn Perry to investigate the effects of service learning. Their thesis, Whom Does Service Learning Really Serve: Community Organizations' Perspectives on Service Learning, examined critical questions and helped ensure that service-learning programs helped both students and the community. Blouin and Perry won a Best Paper Award from the Society for the Study of Problems for the research project.

In spring 2007 Blouin planned and coordinated the Preparing Future Faculty Conference, an annual event co-sponsored by the University Graduate School. "Mr. Blouin's effort to host an outstanding conference provided an additional confirmation that he is dedicated to the advancement of teaching for himself and others," says James C. Wimbush, dean of the University Graduate School. More than 300 graduate students attended to learn more about preparing for academic careers.

Blouin's research and teaching style set him apart from others in his field. "This young man has chosen to dedicate his life to making sociology meaningful and useful," says Gieryn.