Teaching is not only a critical part of scholarly life it is also an amazing opportunity to connect with students about topics I feel passionately about. I have experience both teaching my own classes and assisting in the instruction of a variety of courses taught both traditionally and online. In addition to my work as an instructor and teaching assistant I have also created the instructor’s manual for a college-level textbook on the United States Congress. You can find links to my syllabi below.

Instructor of Record

Liberal Democracy in America

Liberal Democracy in America provides an overview of the government of the United States (U.S.) from the time the English colonies first took root in the 17th century up until present day. The course is purpose- fully and explicitly interdisciplinary and seeks to equip students with the knowledge and skills to examine contemporary American politics. Throughout the course we will read primary sources including the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. We will explore the passionate pleas for the ratification of the constitution made by the Founding Fathers in the Federalist Papers. Further still, we will examine the founders’ contemporaries, and particularly consider Alexis de Tocqueville’s classic work, Democracy in America, to get a sense for how this radical experiment in republican democracy was proceeding in its first few decades. Along the way we will consider the social state of antebellum America and the economics that shaped the young republic’s politics.

In the middle of the course, we will turn to sources of influence in American politics today. We will consider what an engaged public looks like, how elections function, and what role money really does, and does not, play in politics. Further still, we will examine carefully how elites use informal institutions like political parties, interest groups, and lobbyists to blunt the popular will (or sometimes bolster it). In the final third of the class, we return to the political institutions we discussed in the founding era and consider how they operate today. A deep dive into the Congress, the presidency, the administrative state, and the judiciary yield a plethora of questions about the ways in which Madison’s ideas about the separation of powers have warped, twisted, and bent to produce a stronger national government than he, or any of his contemporaries, could have ever imagined.

We will conclude the course by considering how policy is made in the United States today and what threats remain to the democratic republic. At the conclusion of this course, my hope is that you find yourself more effectively equipped to turn on the news, browse social media, or chat with your friends and family and instead of feeling despair, feeling hopeful. This course will prepare you to start to pierce through the rhetoric of politicians and politicos and uncover what their true motives are. Perhaps some of them truly care for the future of this republic. Others, surely do not. It’s up to you to decide who stands where, but to do so with the knowledge derived from rich theoretical frameworks drawn from political science, history, philosophy, economics, law, public administration, and psychology. his course’s syllabus can be found here.

The United States Congress

The United States Congress we see and study today is the product of generations of changes made by our fellow Americans who dared to run and serve their neighbors and friends in one of the most powerful legislative institutions in modern history. To succeed in this course students must identify and understand two key aspects of that opening sentence. First, Congress is a social institution made up of people, which means that to understand the actions of the Congress we need to summarize and analyze the variable be- havior of 535 people at once. This is a lofty goal to say the least and it highlights one of the most dicult challenges of social science. That is, how can we categorize the diversity of the human experience in search of generalizable answers to important questions such as, how does a bill become a law and why? Who are the people representing us in Congress and how were they successful in getting there? Who holds members of Congress accountable and how e↵ective are they at doing so? We will tackle these questions and many others in this course. To answer them we will observe Congress and its members directly as well as tap into the research conducted by scholars of American politics.

The second aspect one must understand in this course is that Congress is a critical, and ever-evolving, institution of American government. Congress is tasked not only with legislating but also with checking the power of other national political institutions. The Congress of today is not the Congress of 1789 and changes in how the institution fulfills its core constitutional duties, how it approaches the writing of laws, and its processes for providing oversight of the federal government are each the result of ambitious members fighting for influence. Understanding the dynamic nature of Congress as an institution will help us unpack even bigger questions about American government. Is Congress still the most powerful branch of American government? Why do party leaders wield so much power over decisions? Will legislative gridlock ever end? These questions too will be answered in this course.

This course will involve digging deep into the modern Congress as it operates today as well as congresses of the past. We will explore both how the actions of the (mostly) men who served in Congress decades ago are partially responsible for the Congress we have today and how modern members of Congress continue tweaking the rules to serve their (and their constituents’) goals. Given these lofty aspirations, it is strongly recommended that students have a familiarity with the American national government–and therefore have taken Liberal Democracy in America (i.e., PSCI 200D) before enrolling in this course. We will begin the course with a deep dive into Article I of the U.S. Constitution that situates Congress in the national gov- ernment as well as fundamental questions about the United States as a republic. We proceed to trace the institutional development of Congress and consider intimately what a political institution is and why institutional design matters. The remainder of the course explores the legislative process, procedure, and the myriad sub-institutions that populate Congress. We conclude the course by examining Congress’ role in the United States separation of powers system and the role and mechanics of congressional elections. This course’s syllabus can be found here.

Teaching Materials Prepared

Theriault, Sean M. and Mickey Edwards. 2019. Congress: The First Branch. New York: Oxford University Press.
Prepared instructor’s manual including the following for each chapter of ten chapters:
– 80 questions (multiple choice, short answer, and essay)
– Lecture slides
– Class activities and lecture suggestions
– Supporting online materials

Head Teaching Assistant

From Fall 2016 through Spring 2018 I served as the Head Teaching Assistant for the University of Texas’ online Introduction to American Government course. This course tends to have an enrollment around 1000 students per semester, which requires a robust team of Teaching Assistants. In leading that team I coordinated between the faculty instuctors, the teaching assistants, and the production managers who helped deliver the class online to undergraduates. My duties included designing test materials, occasionally lecturing in the absence of an instructor, and a lot of logistical coordination. In some ways this job was more like being a project manager than a traditional teaching assistant. Despite this, and most importantly, it provided me with a unique perspective of what a large-scale online-only course looked like behind-the-scenes and what was feasible for instruction and evaluation in those settings.

Teaching Assistant

For four semesters I served as a regular teaching assistant for in-person classes. Two of those appointments were for Introduction to American Government. These classes involved grading exams, occasional lecturing, and leading review sections. I also served as a TA for two more specialized classes: Congressional Elections and the Politics of Health. Each provided a useful perspective on how to deliver more specialized material to smaller classes. Overall, I learned a lot about the norms of teaching from serving under the many devoted faculty members at The University of Texas at Austin.