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2011 Dean’s Award: Allison Wisecup

March 10, 2011
Allison Wisecup

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching

Allison Wisecup, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology, received a B.A. in Sociology and American Studies at the University of Iowa in 2003. She received a master's in Sociology at Duke University in 2006 and completed a Graduate Certificate in Health Policy in 2008 while working toward the Ph.D. Her primary research interests focus on the study of emotion and mental health, with attention also to the structural foundations of cultural identity meanings and the distribution of meanings throughout society. She also has an interest in the inequality of medical treatment and outcomes, especially in the area of dental health. 

Allison's students enthusiastically respond to her teaching style, saying that "the content is interesting and the professor is very passionate and engaged, making it fun" to listen to her, noting that "her lectures always kept me enticed." Allison's perception of herself as "one of students' many guides on an intellectual journey" also strikes a chord in her students, who say she excels at "making you think about things you never did before." About her course preparation, she says "I design my courses with an eye toward integrating disciplinary skills such as theory and method of the practice with broader goals of the liberal arts experience such as critical thinking, synthesis, and writing. These lessons guide every decision I make when planning a course from selecting engaging readings and course material to designing projects and student assessment." Allison engages her students by using group activities and writing assignments that encourage them to think critically. Outside the classroom, students find Allison to be an available and helpful resource who "has consistent office hours weekly and is available to answer questions and clarify materials" so that all students have the opportunity to be successful.

Faculty find Allison to be "an experienced, gifted, and dedicated teacher of sociology" who enjoys discussing pedagogy, saying "I am always impressed with her creative efforts to engage her students. She clearly loves teaching and works very hard at it." They also find notable her diligence in seeking adequate preparation and enhancement of her teaching skills. Allison has, in addition to participating in the American Sociological Association's Preparing Future Faculty program, tutored athletes in sociology courses, mentored undergraduate honors students, and taught at the local community college as well as seeking departmental teaching assistantships and developing her own courses. 

Allison has not only sought opportunities to further her own pedagogical skill, but also collaborated with a peer to write a grant proposal to fund teaching workshops for the professional development of other graduate students in the department: "Allison and her colleague composed an excellent proposal and consequently received funding for their program. They put together a series of teaching workshops over the course of the academic year on topics such as ‘race, class, and gender in the college classroom' and ‘identifying and developing your teaching self'. They lined up the presenters for the workshops, sent out announcements to the graduate students, worked with the staff to order lunch for the workshops, and generally took total responsibility for their own training as teachers of sociology." This provided an important resource for their peers which had been lacking in the department.

Allison's reputation as a teacher has grown such that the spring session of her "Sport and Society" class was full to capacity with a waitlist of nine before the start of the semester. The success of Allison's development as a teacher can be measured by the response of students who are eager to take a class with her, and who enjoy her enthusiastic and compassionate instruction.