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University & College Teaching

Students, Research, and Pragmatism

University & College Teaching

Students, Research, and Pragmatism


My teaching is student- and research-focused, as well as explicitly pragmatic. I believe history and the humanities are useful—even if that utility is not always measurable in dollars and cents.

I currently teach classes at several institutions, including UC San Diego, the University of San Diego, and San Diego Mesa College.

All of my classes, ranging from American History to Legal History to the History of Science, include a focus on evidence-based reasoning and argument. I want students to learn history, but I also want to prepare them to be effective communicators in business, academia, politics, or any area where analysis and critical thinking matter.

One course I teach is American legal history. In what I call “Law and Liberty,” I discuss civil rights, the right to contract, the New Deal, discrimination, disability, intellectual property, and privacy (the Fourth Amendment, the “Right to Privacy” of Katz and Griswold, plus modern business and medical issues). These key topics in the history of law provide critically engaging material to teach students how to use evidence and logic to make effective, rational, and persuasive arguments.

I always try to connect students with historical data. For example, in my introduction to the history of science, covering key moments, events, and people in science and technology from the Greeks, to the Enlightenment, to present-day issues, I always ask students, “Why does this matter to you?” And I always remind them of the modern-day similarities and connections to the past.

Law always plays a role in what I teach. Thus, when I teach general American history, I emphasize the role of law in society as a method of engaging students in the issues and debates that continue to resonate today. Together we ask questions like, “Who is an American?” and “What is the role of government in providing for its citizens?” I want students to learn history, but I also want to prepare them to be effective communicators in business, academia, politics, or any area where analysis and critical thinking matter.

History, and the skills it develops, can be both enriching and practical.


Assistant Teaching

I haven’t always taught classes I developed myself, but I have always sought to to bring my own focus on rationality, critical thinking, and effective use of evidence to all of my instruction.

As a Teaching Assistant in the Making of the Modern World, the writing program at UC San Diego’s Eleanor Roosevelt College, I taught writing and argument in support of world history content up through the medieval period.

And I have also been a TA or Reader for numerous history, writing, and law-related classes at UC San Diego, including LAWS 101 (Introduction to Law), COMM 114M (Communications and the Law), United States history from the founding to the present, the history of Japan from the mid-19th century to the U.S. occupation, the history of the atomic bomb, early Chinese history, among a number of others.