Faculty Spotlight

The 2012 Ross M. Lence Award in Social Sciences

Prof. Kwan

Samantha Kwan
Assistant Professor
Department of Sociology

An accomplished lecturer and an amazingly skilled discussion leader, Dr. Kwan demonstrates her passion for the potential of Sociology to make a difference in the world--and the students respond!

Many students identify Dr. Kwan as one of the most impressive Professors at University of Houston, while others consider her the best Professor they've ever had. Adjectives such as "amazing," "excellent," "inspiring," "awesome," and "outstanding" are frequently seen on her course evaluations. Students routinely mention her contagious enthusiasm, open accessibility and sincere concern for their success as they discuss their pride in having met the challenges of Professor Kwan's rigorous courses.

One of Dr. Kwan's most impressive talents lies in her ability to make cutting edge scholarship accessible to students--and indeed, to inspire them in their own research experiences. Her courses are organized around research exercises that encourage students to apply and explore for themselves many of the concepts presented in class.

Furthermore, Dr. Kwan structures her courses to "walk" students through the process of social research in manageable steps allowing them to understand each phase of the process that seemingly naturally culminates in a larger project. This approach led one student to exclaim, "I never thought I would enjoy methods... It was awesome that she implemented what we were learning with assignments making everything clear and easy to follow."

This focus on pedagogy, somewhat rare at the University level, has been a long standing interest for Dr. Kwan. She has availed herself of a number of "Supplementary Pedagogical Training" opportunities and continues to hone her classroom approach. Awarded two Teaching Awards during her graduate training, Dr. Kwan continues to develop her impressively, well-orchestrated course trajectories. Her planning and preparatory phase, prior to offering a course, is the most extensive of any colleague I have come across in my 24 years of University teaching.

Additionally, Dr. Kwan has been part of two UH QEP grants, allowing her to expand her research focus within the classroom--a core strength in our department and central to a Tier One undergraduate experience.

Moreover, in addition to a prodigious number of research articles, Dr. Kwan has published two "best practice models" about her approach to teaching, one in Teaching Sociology, the top pedagogical journal in our discipline, and one in Sociological Compass, a well-respected general disciplinary publication.

In her co-edited volume, Embodied Resistance: Challenging the Norms, Breaking the Rules (Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2011), Dr. Kwan and co-editor Chris Bobel integrate their passion for teaching with their scholarship by including pedagogical resources for each research chapter – a first for Vanderbilt Press. Since many of the topics in Embodied Resistance engage controversial issues, Kwan and Bobel developed a set of classroom resources for each chapter which includes discussion questions, class assignments, exercises, films, and websites to aid instructors in facilitating student learning and encouraging more thoughtful and reflexive discussions.

It is clear that Dr. Kwan is a passionately committed, exceptionally dedicated, and amazingly successful teacher and mentor. She demonstrates teaching excellence and reflects the best of our profession.

~ Tracy Xavia Karner
Chair and Associate Professor
Department of Sociology