Michelle L. O'Brien

Teaching Interests:

Political Sociology, Demography, Migration, The Demography of Armed Conflict, Social Science Research Methods, Contemporary Russian Politics, Contemporary Central Asian Politics

Teaching Statement:

Just as in my scholarly research I strive to examine questions of structural forces underlying social change and demographic outcomes, my primary teaching goal is to develop students' ability to recognize and examine these forces in their every day experiences. Each course I teach begins with objectives for student learning that reflect their need for skills that carry forward through advanced Sociology coursework as well as their early careers. Not all undergraduates will become graduate students, and so their tasks in my courses are oriented toward becoming sophisticated and critical readers of social research, toward becoming effective analytical thinkers in their early careers, and toward being able to effectively convey information to non-technical audiences.

Undergraduate Courses Taught:

Introduction to Sociology
Sociological Theory
Research Methods in Sociology

Education-Related Service:

In addition to teaching undergraduate courses at the University of Washington, I have been involved in a number of Master Teacher Institutes and Workshops. Invited talks have covered a wide range of topics, from practical advice on how to effectively present STEM research, to substantive topics such as Central Asian migration to Russia, political and historical demography, and Russian populism. Materials prepared for substantive talks have been used in K-12 and community college curricula.

Podcast recordings of the following presentations are available from iTunes:
"The Rise of Neo-Nationalism in Russia"
"Tipping Points in Soviet History"

Selected Student Evaluations:

"I feel better equipped to analyze and critique data presented to me. I can better understand scholarly articles, both in their implications and limitations."
"Michelle's attitude and personality was awesome, a nice balance of Subject Matter Expert (formal) and Human (informal) communication style."
"Michelle taught an amazing class. Her expertise and witty style ultimately made the dark and grim study of war interesting and creative. She has a unique ability to boil down an incredibly dense subject so it can foster good discussion."
"Michelle organizes her lectures in a way that is clear and easy to follow. She is always willing to answer any and all questions and she keeps the information relevant and interesting."