By Jessie Fanczi
Reinhardt students know Dr. Cheryl Brown, professor of sociology, for both her international adventures and her ability to connect concepts in the classroom to real-world moments through hands-on, practical teaching methods.
Brown was recognized for this ability earlier this month when she received the first Innovative Teaching Award, an inaugural honor from Reinhardt’s Center for Innovative Teaching and Engaged Learning.
Having worked with students for more than 20 years, Brown says she has experienced the “magic” that happens when students have the ability to use their knowledge working and learning outside the classroom.
“Just this year my students have explored Ireland, worked with seniors, cleared horse and hiking trails, created campaigns against vaping used by an organization in Cherokee, painted artwork for hospitals and assisted with HIV testing on campus,” said Brown. “They have interned with Goshen Valley Boys Ranch, the court system and Pickens Sheriff’s office. They conducted original research, and some presented at professional meetings.
“Experiential learning changes the lives of the students and community members in so many ways and I am lucky to see those results every semester,” she continued. “It has been an honor in my life to work with so many caring students over the years and this award was a wonderful acknowledgement that this hands-on approach is seen as an asset by my colleagues.”
According to Provost Mark Roberts, Brown has a “genuine talent for finding life’s teachable moments.” As hundreds of past and current students can attest, many of these teachable moments have occurred on the thirty study-aboard trips Dr. Brown has led during her time at Reinhardt.
Hanna Braswell, a third-year student double-majoring in sociology and studio art, said that Brown’s passion inspired her to look at the world through a researcher’s eyes.
“She helped me develop critical thinking skills without me even realizing it,” said Braswell, recipient of the sociological award. “The research she had her students do prior to traveling to Ireland this past summer not only made the entire experience more enjoyable, but also gave me a better understanding of many of the concepts that have been covered in my sociology classes.
Brown also challenges her students to use their education to serve others. Through Brown’s efforts, her students were able to lead a service-learning project and raise more than $9,000 to provide clean water for rural communities in Mexico.
In addition, she recently developed a course called Adulting 101, in which students tie sociological theory to everyday problems such as buying a house or selecting insurance.
Brown has proven to challenge her students in many ways, promoting growth in learning.
“Her methods for teaching inside and outside the classroom might be frustrating at first, since she’ll rarely just give you the answer, but I’m thankful for it,” said Braswell.