University Teaching

I am passionate about the transformative power of inspired teaching.  

Teaching at CU

My teaching philosophy derives in part from my own experiences as an undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz.  First, I have found that students learn best in a collaborative, rather than competitive, environment.  I excel at creating a warm and supportive environment in the classroom, where students can test their limitations, take risks, and surprise themselves at their potential.  Good teaching, in my opinion, is all about trust—teaching students to trust themselves, guiding them to trust one another, earning their trust as their teacher, and showing them how to win my trust.  Students in my courses work regularly in small groups and I train students to see themselves as creators of knowledge, not just receivers of it.  In this vein, I seek to demystify the process of knowledge production, speaking openly about the ambiguities, contradictions, and compromises of my own research, for instance.  Students in my courses attend class because they feel a sense of responsibility and connection to others in the class and are afraid of missing something really interesting, rather than out of fear of being penalized.

Secondly, as an experiential learner myself, I believe that students learn best through being actively engaged in the classroom so I incorporate innovative experiential exercises into most class sessions.  For instance, in my Global Health class, after reading sections of a book about an AIDS education program in an impoverished mining town in South Africa, my classroom becomes “Summertown” and students take on the roles of miners, sex workers, government representatives, AIDS educators, overseas researchers, and other local players.  In my Introduction to LGBT Studies course, students role play a national gathering of LGBT organizations to talk about social change strategies, including giving voice to perspectives different from their own personal views, which many comment how much this deepened both their awareness of complexities as well as their compassion for diverse perspectives.  Issues that once felt remote, simplistic, or uninteresting take on a new sense of urgency, importance, and complexity through such embodied experience. 

Thirdly, in my classrooms, the process of learning is highlighted as much as specific outcomes as I endeavor to inspire students to take ownership over their own learning process.  As educational curriculum in this country has become more and more oriented exclusively to standardized testing, it is especially urgent and rewarding to move students away from the search for the “right” answer to an awareness of the complexities of situations they previously regarded in simplistic terms, as well as to spark the passion for and enjoyment of learning which has been largely beaten down in them by previous educational institutions.  I treat student papers as opportunities for conversation and dialogue as much as for evaluation and my courses are more oriented towards critical thinking than content mastery.  Watching students come to insights about themselves and their place in the world constitutes the most satisfying aspect of teaching for me. 

Through paying significant attention to their individual learning needs, I make sure students leave my courses confident in their own voices, well equipped to find and analyze connections, and hungry to learn more.  While many students enter college classrooms trained to imitate and regurgitate, I press students to stretch beyond these models and become invested in actualizing their own educational potential and excellence.  Through providing different kinds of learning opportunities for varied types of learners, while always stressing sharp analytical lenses and effective written and oral expression, I aim to arm students with the theoretical foundations and critical thinking skills to serve them well beyond the university. 

Sam currently teaches at CU Boulder in the Women’s and Gender Studies department.

Sam also teaches as part of the LGBT Studies Certificate and the INVST Community Leadership Program.

MU teaching (1)

Classes Sam currently teaches:

Facilitating Peaceful Community Change

This course is the first in a series of theory courses that Community Leadership Program students are required to take to provide knowledge and skills to become more effective organizers of community-based initiatives for social and environmental change. We begin by examining dominant cultural paradigms, as they are expressed in the built environment, the educational system, and the media, in particular what we have been taught regarding appropriate gender roles, bodies, and sexual expression, notions of time and productivity, success and excellence, competition, hierarchy, and self-sufficiency, and how social change happens.  We conclude by reimagining aspects of society such as capitalism, leadership, democracy, and power through exploring alternative paradigms, new ways of being that value collaboration and risk taking, authenticity and empathy, process and trust, uncertainty and vulnerability, sustainability and interdependence, as well as alternative models of what constitutes a meaningful life.

Introduction to LGBT Studies

This course traces the global development of both LGBTQ identities/communities and LGBTQ Studies as an academic field.  It outlines generational changes regarding what is considered liberatory politics and cutting-edge scholarship.  And it considers the significant variation in meanings and understandings of gender and sexuality over time (history) and place (geographic location, culture), especially as they interact with societal meanings around race, class, age, religion, and other social divisions, as well as societal institutions such as medicine, law, and capitalism.  

Femininities, Masculinities, Alternatives

What does it mean to be a woman or a man, to be masculine or feminine?  What does it mean to move between these categories?  And what does it mean to live outside of them?  This class examines the diverse experiences of people around the world as they negotiate dominant and subversive understandings of gendered identities.  We will explore the ways that gender—through complex interweavings with race, class, age, sexuality, religion, and geographic location—structures all of our interactions, from our relationship with our body to interpersonal communication to our status in society, as well as the impact that national fantasies, global capitalism, medicine and technology, the media, and law have on our gendered sense of self and material trajectories in life.    

Sexual Spaces

This class explores the multifaceted relationships of sexuality and space/place.  We will focus on sexuality in particular spaces (such as prisons, boarding schools, and highway rest areas) as well as the ways that sexuality (or its absence) creates particular spaces (such as gay neighborhoods, churches, and red light districts).  We will look at the relationships of sexualities to public/private distinctions, as well as rural/urban, sacred/profane, and home/away.  We will explore global issues around sexuality such as the role of sexuality in colonization, contemporary sex tourism and sex trafficking, and sexuality and nationalism more broadly.  After reflecting on methodological considerations in studying sexuality and place (such as access, trust, and insider/outsider dynamics), you will have the opportunity to apply what you’ve learned about the ways that sexuality and place shape one another in the midst of broader discourses of nation, gender, religion, race, class, and generation as you undertake a field research project on campus or in the local community. 


In her address to the United Nations, Emma Watson called on men to become active partners in societal gender change.  To explore what this might look like, this class examines what is hegemonic masculinity, how does it function, and how is it damaging to society–including men?  What does an alternative masculinity entail and how does it foster a more free and positive social environment, including for men?  How does “bro culture” perpetuate rape culture and how does one claim a masculine gender identity not predicated on putting anyone else down?  Finally, how can we support men who embrace an alternative masculinity when occupying this role could lead to their emasculation?  This class is for anyone interested in exploring the future of gender. 

Queer Theory

Drawing from queer of color and transnational perspectives, this course explores key concepts and debates in queer theory. How does queerness complicate understandings of sexual behavior and gendered bodies, particularly as they are shaped by race, class, nation, generation, and culture? In what ways does approaching queerness as a performance and then a politics shift our understandings of the relationships between everyday lives and broader institutional forces like government, medicine and family?  What does queer theory offer to contemporary discussions around identity, sexual freedom, globalization, socioeconomics, and violence as well as to the creation of social change?

Senior Colloquium: Music as Methodology for Social Change

Women’s Studies originated in the 1970s through a combination of activism and intellect.  In this class, we will be learning about the origins of the field, its evolution and institutionalization, its successes and its failures.  As the final required course of the major, this class is designed to provide you the opportunity to reflect, individually and collectively, on Women’s and Gender Studies as an academic and activist institution.  In contemplating the work required to create and nurture this field of study and the drive towards social justice that has accompanied it, we will be asking what motivates and sustains our activism.  Why do so many social change advocates experience burnout and how can we keep ourselves passionate and hopeful?  Where do our visions for societal transformation come from and what might be new paradigms and goals for contemporary social change?  In addition to cultivating some practical tools to avoid succumbing to rage, apathy, and despair and to help us create satisfying, balanced, and sustainable lives and visions, we will look specifically at the role of music as a methodology for social change.  We will examine its role in 4 transnational social movements in providing new visions, creating community, inspiring courage and commitment, and offering comfort and hope.  By the end of the course, we will have a better sense of how to find and listen to our inner sense of purpose and how to be effective change makers in the world. 

Global Sexualities and Public Health

This course examines the ways that ideologies about race, gender, poverty, capitalism, “appropriate” sexuality, and deservingness fundamentally structure global policy and the systems of human life that govern survival.  Areas this course will address include:  different cultural understandings of health/illness and possibilities for sexual expression, global health disparities—not only health outcomes but differential political economies of risk, the effects of violence, structural violence and stigma, and the impact of movement (whether colonization, sex tourism, migration, etc) on sexual possibilities and global health. 

Gender, Sexuality, and Popular Culture

This course explores diverse cultural forms such as film, popular fiction and non-fiction, music videos, public art, websites, blogs and zines which are shaped by, and in turn shape, popular understandings of gender and sexuality at the intersections of race, class, ability, religion, nation, and imperialism.


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