- Lieber Memorial Associate Instructor Award (2018)
From teaching courses on his own anddeveloping an innovative online section of Criminology, through mentoring undergraduate students and teaching our first-time graduate instructors in the department, Eric has placed teaching at the center of his academic life,” says Jane McLeod, Provost Professor and chair of the Department of Sociology. With his practical approach to pedagogy, Eric Sevell has gone above and beyond in order to better serve his peers and students.
Sevell completed all three courses of the Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) sequence in sociology, courses that deepen understanding of perspectives on pedagogy and processes, even though only the first one is required of any Ph.D. candidate. “Participation in these additional courses, in and of itself,” says McLeod “indicates a deep commitment to a broader vision of higher education.” This commitment was formally recognized when Sevell received the Glen D. and Dorothy E. Stewart Family Scholarship, the most prestigious teaching award in the Department of Sociology.
Sevell has contributed to the development of his peers in the PFF program. As a mentor to Ph.D. candidate Kristin Kelley, Sevell was “accessible, thoughtful, empathetic, and encouraging,” she recalls. He responded quickly to her emailed questions about teaching and always concluded his messages by inviting her to send him any other questions or concerns she had. He also assisted her in supporting a struggling student who didn’t speak English as a first language, going out of his way to help improve this student’s’ classroom experience.
“From the beginning of his tenure as my mentor, I sensed that Eric was open to dialogue, which eased my insecurities about asking for help,” says Kelley. “Whether they are his own students or mentees or someone else’s, Eric wants students to have a positive experience in higher education.”
Many of Sevell’s own students list his Criminology and Deviant Behavior and Social Control classes as their favorites and as the most influential in their undergraduate and postgraduate careers. Former student Drew Nathanson says that his classes are so interesting that they tend to be full on even the coldest days of the semester. “Uniquely,” she recalls, “Eric started off each class by reading an article from the current day’s newspaper—this would later come full circle as it somehow would relate to what was taught in class that day.”
Renisha Mays took an online Criminology course taught by Sevell, and remembers it as the most memorable of all of her classes. What stood out to her was how Sevell devised enjoyable, engaging course work for this class. “Often times with online courses,” she says, “there is a great deal of dense reading and writing. However, he created assignments that were not only insightful but fun and interactive.” These assignments often required her to go into her community and document the social issues that she was studying. Many of Sevell’s students note that his use of current media such as YouTube videos and online interviews have made core concepts easy to understand and apply.
According to former student Stuart Summerville, Sevell treats students as equals and creates “a learning environment that allows for the exchange of ideas free from judgment.” Summerville took a criminology course because he knew Sevell would be his instructor and says, “It turns out that he and that class would be huge reasons why I chose to attend law school. Some of the fondest memories of my college experience were formed in the office hours when he let me ramble about my future, my goals, and what I was passionate about.”