What is your name?
Dr. Alexandra Cockerham.
What kind of work do you do in the college?
I am an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences. I teach, do research and engage in service in the department, profession and community.
Why did you decide to become an academic?
I started my academic path with an internship teaching at a public high school. At this point, I realized my passion for teaching and simultaneously applauded K-12 teachers! However, after spending the better part of my days on classroom management, I realized that what I really wanted was to encourage passionate students to consider deeper questions about the social world. I wanted to have the methodological tools to research in the social sciences and then pass those tools and passions on to the next generation.
What do you find most fulfilling about your job?
The most fulfilling part of my job is working with students, specifically seeing them grow by learning new material and then helping them figure out how to hone and apply passions in the social sciences. I believe that in my position, I get to make the world a better place by encouraging my students to question their assumptions. The social world is so much more complex than the sources that try to tell us how we should be thinking about something. In our polarized world I am passionate about teaching students to appreciate complexity and I am most fulfilled when I hear my students taking a step back and becoming a little more “gray” on issues. Nothing boils down to one right answer- there are many different metrics that we should be using to analyze and judge any public policy. In the US (and other majoritarian systems) we are often given two choices but I hope my students can look beyond that to realize that the world needs compassionate innovators that will consume information more critically. I feel privileged that I get to encourage my students to do this. It also doesn’t hurt to receive affirmation with a few smiles and fist bumps on the last day of class. I am also very fulfilled when I have the opportunity to mentor students to connect their interests to their degree and then connect their time in undergrad with their long-term goals beyond this stage in life. I see my students get excited when we sit down and talk about their passions and practical ways they can use them and I find that rewarding.
What are you working on or teaching right now that has you excited professionally?
Currently, I am teaching an evidence based public policy class where my students are tasked with examining current and historic public policies in the US and considering the many potential policy alternatives and ways to measure and evaluate their effectiveness. This is my first semester teaching this class as a state mandated writing credit and I have been overwhelmed with the amount of growth I have seen this semester with respect to class discussion, writing skills, public speaking, and camaraderie among students even with COVID mandates in place. Many of my students have expressed an interest in pursuing this field further and it makes me excited to further develop the public policy certificate program for Interdisciplinary Social Sciences major!
Is there anything else that you would like to share, such as a recent publication, your website, or your favorite book?
My most recent publication is a blog post with the London School of Economics about the complexity of COVID response across the US and I think this further illustrates the importance of considering nuance (https://bit.ly/2X2ZeaM). After this publication, I was excited participate in an interdisciplinary panel during fall 2020 to discuss this topic at Utah Valley University with academics and professionals from many different fields. The nerd in me had a great time conversing with scholars of many different backgrounds and perspectives on a very important and timely issue.
Dr. Alexandra Cockerham is an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences at Florida State University. Her research focuses on executive power, with an eye toward the limitations that institutions impose on directly elected executives. You can learn more about Dr. Cockerham here.