Teaching and Research Advising


My approach to course design follows the methodological and conceptual investments that underpin my research. I bring an interdisciplinary perspective to my teaching and encourage students to draw on theoretical and methodological approaches from across the humanities and social sciences. Given my research interests, I seek to include translated work by non-US/European anthropologists in my syllabi when I can; and, when students are conducting fieldwork abroad, I strongly encourage them to engage with the work of anthropologists in their host country. I consider Ethnographic Methods, which I have taught as a Lecturer at the undergrad level and co-taught to grad students, to be an area of teaching expertise.

At the University of Michigan I co-teach an undergraduate class with Liz Roberts on ethnographic coding and analysis that makes use of material from the Mexican Exposures project.

Research Advisor

From Jan 2015 to July 2017 I served as the Assistant Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research at Northwestern University. In this position I carried out one-on-one advising with over 200 student researchers a year.

As a research advisor, I helped students identify and narrow down a research topic, make connections to faculty within Northwestern and elsewhere, develop their topic through a literature review, design a methodology, plan a research budget, and write a successful research grant proposal. In addition, we cover designing and submitting IRB protocols, the ethics of working abroad and/or with culturally sensitive data, and the practical issues involved in international research.

Within our office I had particular responsibility for students undertaking qualitative research (e.g., oral history, participant-observation, interviews, etc.) from Anthropology, and disciplines like Global Health, Psychology, Sociology, Public Policy, and Performance Studies. However, we served every school at Northwestern, so I regularly worked with students from the natural sciences, engineering, humanities, creative arts, and the pre-medical track.

An archaeological ceramics class practical. Santiago, Chile. 2010 (Photo: M. Leighton)

My advising was primarily conducted through multiple face-to-face meetings and written feedback on proposal drafts. I also established a series of workshops to prepare students for common issues they encounter when conducting their first independent research project over the summer (e.g., ethical obligations in interview-based research that continue beyond obtaining a signed consent form; how to handle problematic relationships with lab colleagues; staying on track when working alone, etc.).

I worked primarily with students who were new to research, to teach them specific research and writing skills; but to also convey the larger conceptual differences between carrying out an independent research project and taking coursework in a class. For instance, we would discuss how methodological strategies must be deliberate, and intimately tied to the kind of question the project wishes to pose: the decision to either spend a week collecting a single individual’s oral history or conduct an online survey of 100 people, is based on scope and depth of the specific project, not just the student’s assumption about what is normal in their field.