Both the UNC Department of Political Science1 and UNC-Chapel Hill2 as a whole have recognized my teaching with special commendations. My approach to teaching can be stated simply:

Teach to the head through the heart and the heart through the head.

UNC Teaching Award recipients honored at UNC-Georgia Tech January 15, 2022. (That’s me in the gray jacket toward the middle.)

What does this mean in practice? In brief, the head-heart approach means I treat students as beings capable of deep analytic understanding and as people with great loves and real worries. Students care deeply about themselves, each other, and the world. Rather than bracket these cares, I connect the academic material (head) with the things which drive their pursuit of education and formation at the University (heart). That’s the main task for most students: connect the material to matters of concern which fall within the purview of political science.

[Sam] was described by a faculty member in his department as “the best teacher I have seen in a decade.” He demonstrates excellence in every category of instructional evaluation, and he inspires students to “fall in love” with political theory, providing them with tools to understand and analyze political theory.

Tanner Award citation, March 2022

For other students, political science is a strictly analytic subject. I reach these students by teaching in a way which evokes (or provokes!) the emotions. The study of politics entails discussion of humanity’s best and worst moments. So far as I can, I aim to appropriately connect students to the deeply human elements of political science. It is not just interesting to learn about collective action, it is important. Whether through illustrative examples, Auden’s poetry, or exclamations of outrage and joy in the classroom, I hope to bring the head and heart together.

“Sam is one of the best professors I have had at UNC. He constantly encouraged participation and gave multiple opportunities for questions and comments. The variety of assignments and journal entries also allowed for me to expand on my thoughts and receive helpful feedback. Sam remained enthusiastic throughout the entirety of the semester and made political theory seem easy to grasp!”

Student evaluation, Spring 2021, Modern Political Thought

As a disciplinary matter, my teaching involves elements of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE). Within the boundaries of a given course, PPE allows me to provide students multiple ‘ways in’ through the three analytic approaches. While I think this is a good pedagogical move, it also connects to my substantive research interests. Teaching pushes me to understand political theory to a greater degree, making me a better scholar.

Courses Taught as Instructor of Record:

  • Modern Political Theory (POLI 271)
  • Everyday Political Theory (POLI 276)
  • Extracurricular Teaching
    • Short course on the Problem of Evil and Suffering
    • Seminar on the Purpose of Education and the University

Courses Taught as Teaching Assistant

  • American Government in Changing Times (POLI 100) with Sarah Treul
  • Modern Political Theory (POLI 271) with
    • Jeff Spinner-Halev
    • Matthew Weidenfeld using interactive ‘role-playing’ historical curriculum (Reacting to the Past)

1. John Patrick Hagan Award for Best Teaching Fellow UNC-CH Political Science Department 2021
2.Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching by Graduate Assistants 2022

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