ITA 2017 Nominee: Annika Erickson Posted on April 9th, 2018 by

This is one of a few interviews conducted by Ellyn Adelmann ‘18 with winners and previous nominees for the Gustavus Innovative Teaching Award during the 2017-2018 academic year.

Annika Erickson, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Environmental Studies, and African Studies, incorporated a new element to the Ethnographic Interview assignment in her S/A-111: Cultural Anthropology course during the Fall of 2017. Students conducted interviews  with peers who come from different cultural backgrounds, with an “aim to transform fears of intercultural engagement to excitement, and give students practice in engaging with their peers with respect, curiosity, and empathy,” Erickson explained. According to Erickson, the assignment gave students the opportunity to connect with others who they most likely would not have, fostering an intercultural engagement that is not as common as it should be on Gustavus’ campus.

After the end of the semester, Erickson held a focus group with several students who had been interviewed to get feedback on the process and find out what could be improved. She realized that “many international students and domestic students from diverse backgrounds want to be asked about their culture, as long as the asking is done with respect.” She uses this feedback as well as feedback from course evaluations to make this experience for both parties as enriching and respectful as possible. When asked about where she gets her ideas for course assignments, Erickson said she often gets new ideas from teaching workshops or thinks of them any time of the day or night when she is mulling over teaching strategies. In the future, she hopes to share stories from these experiences more publicly and incorporate more collaboration between interviewer and interviewee. When other professors work on innovative assignments, she advises that whatever the idea is, one should consider whether it “aligns with course learning objectives and allows students to practice valuable skills.”


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