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Professor Susan Ferguson wins national award for contributions to field of sociology

Professor Ferguson. sociology, recieved the Hans O. Mauksch Award. Contributed

Professor Susan Ferguson, sociology, was honored with the Hans O. Mauksch Award for Distinguished Contributions to Undergraduate Sociology in August 2018. The Hans O. Mauksch Award is a prize given annually by the American Sociological Association to honor an individual scholar that has contributed to the teaching and learning of sociology through various aspects.

Ferguson has several areas of specialty that she has explored over the last few decades at the College. In addition to teaching introductory and tutorial courses, she has offered a course on the sociology of health and illness as well as a seminar on the family. Two years ago, she also taught in the Semester at Sea program.

Devoting herself to the enrichment of Grinnell’s, as well as the nation’s, sociological community for nearly three decades, Ferguson said that winning this prize acknowledges the work and teaching she has done over these years.

In the professional domain, Ferguson has published several books that have influenced the teaching of sociology worldwide. Her three anthologies on introductory sociological material, the family, and race, class and gender, respectively, have been used in colleges and universities nationwide, as well as in China and Europe.

“Those three anthologies I have edited contain what I think are really compelling voices in sociology, and a lot of faculty are using them,” Ferguson said.

Besides having written and published several books, Ferguson has led teaching workshops for other faculty, has served as an external reviewer of other colleges’ sociology departments and participated in designing the sociology curriculum nationwide. 

What parallels her academic achievement is her experience and enthusiasm for teaching. During her graduate school years, Ferguson had already begun to teach classes and was nominated for an award as a graduate student teacher.

However, Ferguson still felt as though the College challenged her teaching style when she first arrived 25 years ago.

“Coming here, it pushed me to a higher level because the students demanded it,” she said. “In that, I could not just come to the classroom and, you know, stand at a podium and lecture for 50 to 80 minutes. There was more engagement, and students asked great questions so I needed to push my teaching to a different level.”

Ferguson also later wrote in an email to The S&B that her teaching philosophy revolves around “the importance of decentering dominant narratives in the classroom by introducing diverse voices and texts,” and that “learning needs to be student centered and that faculty need to narrate their positionality as teachers.”

Although Ferguson’s career at the College has brought many personal accomplishments, her priorities still center around her students.

“Teaching never gets old,” Ferguson said. “The students challenge me and bring new perspectives to the readings and the learning that goes on in each class. I came to Grinnell because of that high-quality teaching, the emphasis put on it, but I have stayed for the students. I’ve learned as much from them over the years as I have taught. They push me. So Grinnell students certainly contributed to [the award].”

Despite Ferguson’s lengthy career, she still has several immediate plans for the future in wake of her award.

“The award comes with an expectation that I will do a lecture at next year’s meeting,” she said. “Next year I will give Hans O. Mauksch Award lecture in August at the ASA meetings, so I am doing research right now in preparation to write that lecture and then it will be published in Teaching Sociology, it’s our top journal on teaching.”

Ferguson is now designing new courses that will involve more global work, and she also hopes to teach on Semester at Sea again, while conducting international sociology research at the same time.

Professor Ferguson. sociology, recieved the Hans O. Mauksch Award. Contributed
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