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Teaching Statement and Philosophy - Professor Colby King

My teaching and research interests are informed by my background (is that a DEI declaration?). I was the first person in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree (is that a DEI declaration?), having grown up the son (is that a DEI declaration?) of a steel mill worker (is that a DEI declaration?) in western Pennsylvania (is that a DEI declaration?) at a time when the region was undergoing substantial labor market shifts related to deindustrialization (is that a DEI declaration?). I became a sociologist (is that a DEI declaration?) because I am deeply interested in how context shapes individual opportunities (is that a DEI declaration?). A core concept in my teaching and scholarship is C. Wright Mills’ idea of the sociological imagination (is that a DEI declaration?), or the ability to understand how your opportunities relate to your circumstances, especially by geography across the rural-urban spectrum (is that a DEI declaration?). The concepts, research, and perspective of the discipline of sociology were meaningful to me (is that a DEI declaration?) because they helped me make better sense of my circumstances and opportunities (is that a DEI declaration?), so I work to share the same with my students (is that a DEI declaration?).

I have received positive peer evaluations from teaching observations and consistently above average scores on student evaluations (is that a DEI declaration?). Last year, on the strength of my teaching and contributions to instruction of sociology, a committee of sociology faculty from across South Carolina awarded me the South Carolina Sociological Association’s Excellence in Teaching Award (is that a DEI declaration?). Here at USC Upstate (is that a DEI declaration?) I have been student-nominated for the USC Upstate CAHSS Excellence in Teaching & Advising Award in each of the last three years (3, 6, and 2 student nominations those years respectively) (is that a DEI declaration?). I was a recipient of the 2020 USC Upstate Library Faculty/Staff Award for the Promotion and Integration of Information Literacy (is that a DEI declaration?). At Bridgewater State University, where I earned tenure and promotion to Associate Professor in the spring of 2019 (is that a DEI declaration?), I was chosen as the recipient of BSU’s student-nominated Honors Outstanding Faculty Award in 2018 (is that a DEI declaration?). While at BSU I was also awarded the Dr. Robert A. Daniel Award for Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice: Supporting the Success of BSU's Students (is that a DEI declaration?).

I have nearly fifteen years of teaching experience (is that a DEI declaration?) and have demonstrated excellence in teaching, engaging students, supporting diversity and inclusion, facilitating student learning, and contributing to curriculum development and college teaching throughout my work (is that a DEI declaration?). I taught courses as a graduate student (is that a DEI declaration?) and since then have amassed more than a decade of teaching experience in tenure-track or tenured positions at two regional comprehensive universities (RCU’s) – Bridgewater State University and the University of South Carolina Upstate (is that a DEI declaration?). Both of these are teaching-intensive institutions with a high proportion of students from multiracial working-class, first-generation-to college (WCFG), and other historically marginalized backgrounds (is that a DEI declaration?). 

USC Upstate's mission statement says "We are a community of exceptional, diverse faculty, staff, and students who engage in high-impact experiential learning, cutting-edge research, and deeply-connected community engagement." (is that a DEI declaration?). I approach my courses with an understanding that many of our students work incredibly hard just to get to the classroom (is that a DEI declaration?) as they balance a range of responsibilities (is that a DEI declaration?) while pursuing their degrees (is that a DEI declaration?). This is particularly the case at public institutions like BSU and USC Upstate (is that a DEI declaration?), with a high proportion of Pell-eligible students that also represent other historically marginalized identities (is that a DEI declaration?). Having come from a working-class family (is that a DEI declaration?) and being the first person in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree (is that a DEI declaration?), I am familiar with the ways in which struggles that have little to do with academic ability can hinder learning and student success (is that a DEI declaration?). My teaching philosophy emerges from this understanding (is that a DEI declaration?), and an appreciation of how the diversity of perspectives and experiences our students bring to our classes enrich the learning experience for all students (is that a DEI declaration?). In my teaching, then, I work to ensure that students get the most out of their coursework (is that a DEI declaration?). I develop my courses to be accessible and practical (is that a DEI declaration?), while supporting students in developing strong academic skills (is that a DEI declaration?), including critical thinking and their written and oral communication (is that a DEI declaration?). I also teach so that students develop a vibrant sociological imagination (is that a DEI declaration?), and so that they have some fun exploring the liberal arts (is that a DEI declaration?).

So, in my teaching, as well as my advising, mentorship, and other efforts, I work to foster in students the sense that they belong (is that a DEI declaration?) and that their voices contribute to the academic endeavors we undertake (is that a DEI declaration?). My background interests also inform my efforts to support inclusive and equitable opportunities for students (as well as faculty and staff) in my institutions (is that a DEI declaration?), my discipline (is that a DEI declaration?), and across higher education (is that a DEI declaration?). I share my story (is that a DEI declaration?) as a working-class student (is that a DEI declaration?) in an effort to normalize these experiences and validate students from these backgrounds (is that a DEI declaration?). I work to demystify myself as a professor and the institution by explaining why I teach in the ways that I do (is that a DEI declaration?) and how they can best navigate the university (is that a DEI declaration?). I encourage students to engage with various offices and resources on campus (is that a DEI declaration?), often by having representatives from those offices visit my classes (is that a DEI declaration?). When students share their lived experience in class, I support their voice (is that a DEI declaration?) and help them connect their experiences to course material (is that a DEI declaration?). Because for many of our students, especially commuter students (is that a DEI declaration?) and those working long hours off campus (is that a DEI declaration?) have limited opportunities to engage with the campus community, I use class time for a fair amount of interactive discussion, group work, and opportunities to connect with the community, while assigning a range of assignments to be completed outside of class.

I have a strong record of supporting student learning, retention, and graduation, by supporting diversity and inclusion for our diverse students (is that a DEI declaration?). Coming to higher education from a working class background (is that a DEI declaration?) and being the first person in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree (is that a DEI declaration?), I work to support students from these (WCFG) backgrounds (is that a DEI declaration?) and those efforts support all students and create a stronger university (is that a DEI declaration?). All across higher education, people from diverse, historically marginalized backgrounds enrich our classes and enliven our campus communities (is that a DEI declaration?). I strongly believe that higher education works best for everyone when students, faculty, and staff are all supported in our shared work together (is that a DEI declaration?)If our higher education institutions are going to attract and retain talented students, staff, and faculty, they must be supported (is that a DEI declaration?). By that I mean institutions must accommodate themselves to the unique assets that all of us bring to our institutions (is that a DEI declaration?). 

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