Professor Molly Melin Goes Beyond Lectures to Engage and Intrigue Students
Political Science Professor Molly Melin does more than just lecture. From board games to Facebook groups, she’s finding new and creative ways to engage her students in politics and international relations. In fact, Dr. Melin has recently been awarded with the Provost’s Award for Teaching Freshmen. The award seeks to highlight instructors who teach 100 level classes and demonstrate a high level of commitment to building community among freshmen students.
As a professor, Dr. Melin says she aims to create a dynamic learning environment for students in the classroom. “While lectures enable the dissemination of information to many students at once, they create passivity among students and exceed their ability to focus,” she said. Even faced with large class sizes, Dr. Melin encourages class participation and uses varying methods of teaching and testing techniques.
She also knows how to think outside of the box to more fully engage her students in the subject matter. One activity she uses is Diplomacy, a strategy based board game set in pre WWI Europe. Students in her classes also get the opportunity to join a class Facebook group to share current events and relevant articles, which she hopes will help “more reserved students” voice their opinions and encourage active thinking.
In addition to creating a dynamic classroom, Dr. Melin has also taken great steps to make academic research more appealing to freshmen students. Seeing no dividing line between research and teaching, she integrates political science research into her classes by discussing research journals, grants, and some of her current projects with her students. She also encourages students to go beyond the classroom by offering extra credit for students who attend research talks on campus. “A good teacher should demystify the process of social research,” she said, “showing that social science is not a collection of hard facts but rather is alive with puzzles and new areas of research.”
For sophomore Aaron Macchietto, Dr. Melin’s creative approach to teaching has made all the difference. As a freshman last year, Macchietto took Dr. Melin’s PLSC 102 class – International Relations in an Age of Globalization. His fondest memory was a group presentation at the end of the semester that allowed him and his classmates to step into the shoes of policymakers.
“She had us present strategies to negotiate a hostage situation,” he said. “It really forced us to apply our textbook knowledge in a real world situation.”
In fact, Macchietto found himself so interested in the world of government and diplomatic officials that he soon decided to become a political science major. He says Dr. Melin’s class played a huge role in his decision.
Macchietto is only one of the many students Melin has shown great cura personalis – care of the whole person – towards. She regularly mentors graduate and undergraduate students, giving them both academic and professional advice. She has remained in contact with many of her former students who have since graduated.
“As a faculty member, it is often easy to allow students to drift in and out of our classroom with very little personal connection,” Dr. Melin said. “I strive to make that personal connection, as students are only likely to gain passion for the materials we teach if we exude passion for both the material and our students.”