Western University SociologyFaculty of Social Science
Amanda Zavitz-Gocan

Amanda Zavitz-Gocan, Assistant Professor

Sociology Professor, School of Language and Liberal Studies, Fanshawe College

Ph.D. Sociology, University of Western OntarioFull CV
BA Hons Sociology, University of Western Ontario

Recent Activities

Coordinated Social Science Speakers Series, School of Language and Liberal Studies, Fanshawe College

Current projects

I am currently authoring the first Canadian edition of Introduction to Sociology E-reader for Nelson publications

Areas of Research and Teaching Interests

  • sociological theory (classical and modern)
  • social inequality
  • media and ideology
  • race and ethnicity
  • social change and development
  • gender/women's studies

  • Bio

  • Teaching

  • Publications/Research

  • Community

Honours

2002-05 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Fellowship

see more in Teaching

I graduated in 1999 from the University of Western Ontario with a Bachelor of Arts in Honours Sociology. In the Fall of that same year, I began my Masters of Arts in the Sociology department at the University of Western Ontario. After completing the course requirements for my Masters, I was fast-tracked into the PhD programme. I then worked to complete the course requirements for my PhD, which included two comprehensive examinations, one in sociological theory and the other in social inequality. For the next two years, I compiled and analysed data, researched the socio-historical significance of the media in Canadian society, studied the role of the newspaper and the construction of ideology in contemporary society. I then began to write my dissertation, which analysed how the mainstream press manufactures the content of Canadian newspaper stories related to Aboriginal people. More specifically, I argue that the racialization of Aboriginals in Canadian newspapers is less about race per se, and more about securing the dominant economic, political and ideological structures of Canadian society. I defended my dissertation in December 2005. While completing the final stages of my dissertation, I was hired as a partial-load Professor of Sociology in the School of Language and Liberal Studies at Fanshawe College. At this time, I was teaching Classical and Contemporary Sociological Theory at The University of Western Ontario, I was teaching four courses at Fanshawe and I was finishing the last chapters of my dissertation. In September 2005, I was hired as a full-time Sociology Professor at Fanshawe College in the School of Language and Liberal Studies.

At Fanshawe I have taught several sociology courses including Introduction to Sociology for College students, Introduction to Sociology for University students (this course is given one-for-one credit at the University of Western Ontario), Gender and Sexuality, Social Inequality, Critical Youth Studies, Demography, and Healthy/Sick Societies. Within Fanshawe College, I am well known for my expertise in sociological theory as well as social inequality. I am an excellent lecturer with a strong pedagogy. As such, I have often been called upon to help mentor part-time and partial-load faculty new to the College. I have also led teaching workshops in which I have shared some of my teaching strategies.

In April 2008, I became the Coordinator of Social Science in the School of Language and Liberal Studies. This is a position that I initiated when I saw a need for greater Social Science recognition and representation within the School of Language and Liberal Studies. As the Coordinator of Social Science, I was responsible for overseeing the pedagogic and academic merit of Social Science courses taught within the School of Language and Liberal Studies. I worked closely with the Chair of the department (Whitney Hoth) and other Coordinators from the School in team meetings to make decisions for the overall betterment of Social Science and the School. During this time, I initiated a major program shift that made Introduction to Sociology or Introduction to Psychology mandatory courses for graduation from the General Arts and Science Program. This shift led to new Social Science hires within our area as well as a greater Social Science presence within our School. I also collaborated closely with the Social Science Faculty to understand issues and concerns and bring those issues to the management in our School.

In 2008, I also initiated and organized the Social Science Speakers Series. This series was initiated to create a more positive and higher profile for the academic work completed by Social Science Faculty in the School of Language and Liberal Studies. The goal of this series is to increase the interdisciplinary awareness and advocacy of social issues among our students, faculty and community members as well as to foster critical thinking and promote academic dialogue and debate concerning important issues that affect our society. Over the past years, the Social Science Speakers Series has hosted many internationally acclaimed speakers including: Maude Barlow, Linda McQuaig, Jim Stanford, Eves Engler and Judy Rebick. In November 2012, Gail Dines presented as a part of this series.

In addition to teaching full time at Fanshawe College, coordinating the Social Science Curriculum, and organizing the Speakers Series, I have taught Classical and Contemporary Sociological Theory at the University of Western Ontario for the past twelve years. I began teaching Theory at Western when I was completing my PhD. Teaching sociological theory is my passion. The discipline of sociology is grounded in the roots of the classical theory. I believe that a thorough and comprehensive understanding of sociological theory is necessary in order to truly grasp the complexities of sociological thought and research. My main objective in teaching theory is to help students see the interconnections between these theoretical approaches and what happens in their everyday lives. Students often read classical sociological theory and cannot see how it pertains to their own lives. My goal is to make this relationship transparent.

Teaching at both Fanshawe College and the University of Western Ontario has been an exceptional experience for several reasons. Primarily, it allows me to realize and further develop my love of teaching. I strongly believe in the power of education, both in its own right and in the possibility to promote positive social change by changing the way that students see the world around them. My role as an educator has been to encourage my students to think critically for themselves and to motivate them towards higher learning.

In general, I am a very dedicated and determined person who is multi-faceted. I am the first person in my family to achieve post-secondary education. I am one of only three people to be fast-tracked into the PhD program in the history of the department of sociology at the University of Western Ontario, and I am one of only a handful of students who finished my PhD in the allotted required time while teaching, managing a household and family, and staying involved and committed to my community. My husband and I own a small family restaurant in St. Thomas called the Country Charm Café. While he is primarily responsible for the day-to-day management of the establishment, I played a key role in drafting the business plan, applying for financial assistance, hiring the staff and getting the restaurant established. Our restaurant is very successful and highly regarded in the community. Furthermore, I initiated a coalition that worked to get a smoke-free bylaw passed in St. Thomas and I continue to work with the city council of St Thomas. I also coach little league soccer. I am very proud of all these accomplishments.

I am passionate and enthusiastic about all of the various areas of my life. I am a very honest, loyal and caring person who highly values the close relationship I maintain with my family and friends.

 

Recent Teaching Awards

2006 Award of Excellence USC Teaching Honour Roll

2005 Award of Excellence USC Teaching Honour Roll

2004 Award of Excellence USC Teaching Honour Roll

Teaching Philosophy

The teachers I admire most have several things in common: they tend to command the room in terms of presence and as such capture student interest and attention, and they also put knowledge into context so that its relevance is apparent. These role models have influenced my approach to teaching.

I love teaching sociology, and I bring a lot of energy and passion to the class to make this love readily apparent to my students. I view myself as a facilitator of the learning process. I deliver content in a way that is engaging and thought provoking but also allows the students connect with the concepts as they are being presented. When planning and delivering a lesson, I am conscious of different learning styles. I find that students are better able to grasp the material through lecture-based discussion and board writing than PowerPoint. In providing examples and applying the material to everyday life, I find a way to get my students to tell me what I want them to know. We work together to reinforce key definitions, ideas, and concepts. When students are truly learning and understanding the material, they feel enlightened and empowered!

One of the key skills that I teach in all my classes is critical thinking through the power of the sociological imagination. I encourage students to move beyond description of the issues to an analysis of patterns of behaviour in society. I want them to explain why we have social inequality in our society. When I teach sociological theory, I motivate my students to understand the practical applications of classical and contemporary theory to everyday life. For example, in their first assignment, I expect my students to apply the three foundational sociological theories to explain student disengagement. I also encourage my students to see the interconnections between the course content and their lives as citizens. I assess students’ ability to make this connection through various assignments given throughout the term as well as on in-class essays. In meeting the learning objectives in each of my courses, my goal is that students will learn to be more critical of the world around them and question taken-for-granted assumptions outside of the classroom context.

I also develop positive rapport with my students. I create an encouraging and respectful atmosphere. I get to know them by name, even in classes of 60 or more; I prompt them to ask questions, I ask them where they are struggling and where they are excelling, and I use humour and self-reflection to teach sociology like a story so that the concepts build on one another.

In summary, then, my teaching approach is critical, dialogic, and student centered.

Recent Publications (Past 5 Years)
>for more see Full CV

(forthcoming) "The Intersection of Race, Ideology and Media in Canadian Newspaper’s Portrayal of Aboriginals" Canadian Journal of Sociology

Recent Projects

(2008-2010) Lead Investigator, Student Disengagement- Attendance and Motivation at College.

(2008-2010) Chair, Curriculum Review, School of Language and Liberal Studies- Grade 11 and 12 Social Science and Humanities

Leading and Volunteering

(2008-present) Organizer, Social Science Speakers Series, Fanshawe College. Initiated this series in 2008 to increase the interdisciplinary awareness and advocacy of social issues among Fanshawe students, faculty and community members as well as to foster critical thinking and promote academic dialogue and debate concerning important issues that affect our society

(1998-present) Tutor and Mentor to Youths, Elgin County School Board. Activities here include working with young children and adolescents who display behavioural difficulties such as delinquent behaviour or Attention Deficit Disorder, tutoring young children who have difficulty learning to read or spell, and helping these children/youths develop a self-confidence and discipline.

(2008-2010) Coordinated and led Social Science Forum, Fanshawe College.

(2003-2005) Founded and Organized Coalition for Smoke-free St Thomas and Elgin. This group of concerned citizens succeeded in getting a bylaw prohibiting smoking in workplaces and public spaces in St Thomas as of April 1, 2005.

1995-1996) Volunteer, London Booth House Detention Center. Counselled and constructed recreational activities for juvenile delinquents.