By Meg Haile
Steven Hayes, the new sociology professor this semester, is making a huge difference in the way his students view sociology. Professor Hayes has a BA in psychology, a MA in sociology, and leads a very busy life. He moved to the area last May from Los Angeles, California for the cheaper cost of living and the opportunity to teach.
On top of teaching at LSC-Montgomery and San Jacinto College, he works for the prison’s reintegration program and is a student just like us, working to get a graduate degree in sociology. In the prison reintegration program, Professor Hays works to help reduce the rate at which prisoners return back to prison. He helps them learn how to be a productive member of society.
In class, Professor Hayes, encourages an open discussion of the material because he wants to promote an active learning environment so that he is able to see what the students know or think they know. However, he does not let his students get by with invalidated
statements; he prompts deeper incite to encourage a more complete understanding of the material.
Professor Hayes has been encouraging his students to dig deep in multiple ways and believes in taking a different approach to help his students understand the material. He assigns several extra credit projects that encourage students to open their eyes to the other cultures around them and gain a more accepting understanding. It is still early in the semester and already two very powerful projects have been offered.
The first project seemed simple enough, to take a racially biased test online. This online test is set up to determine if people have an automatic preference to one culture or group over another. The results of this test were quite unexpected. The test is available for anyone to take at https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/demo. Be prepared, you might get unexpected insight to yourself.
The second was to observe a gay African American church service in Houston and relate this to his lecture on culture and subcultures. This could be a very controversial issue, but he was very clear to his students that it was for extra credit only. This experience was intended to help his students gain a better understanding though real life experiences.
This all falls into Professor Hayes’ philosophy on teaching: “I want to be as equitable and accessible to everyone as possible. At the same time, I want to acknowledge what people can do,” he says.
Professor Hayes believes that he can bring real life applications to the classroom through his personal experiences. His experiences as a student are part of why he has chosen to teach at a community college. He feels he can understand the community college experience from many perspectives that are often not considered, like how a student’s personal life can effect their level of understanding in school. Through his unique extra credit projects, he gives students the option to apply sociological principles to real life situations.
Consistently encouraging students to critically think and understand sociological premises, Hayes might quote the movie the Matrix. “It is your choice; do you want the red pill or the blue pill,” he asks.