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When a sociologist turns her sharp focus on her students, both the learning and the students are illuminated

Teaching transformed

Walk into Sarah Sobierajís classroom, and youíre as likely to hear a focused debate on the subtext behind a corporate Twitter feed as you are to witness a research lab in action. It is no ordinary classroom.

By changing the dynamic with every class, Sobieraj expands the way students see their subject and society at large, imbuing them with the intellectual nimbleness that their futures demand.

The media has fascinated Sobieraj since she joined the sociology faculty at Tufts nine years ago. The interplay between media, technology, and culture fuels her work as a researcher and author, and especially her teaching.

Her classroom is famously lively. It’s an interactive space grounded in disciplined research and coursework, but inventive in its approach, as fluid and evolving as the media itself. For Sobieraj, every day should offer a different experience so every student gains the freshest possible perspective on our global media conversation. That perspective, she believes, will inform their lives post-Tufts and help to shape the nature of our media and our world.

Outside the classroom, Sobieraj plays the role of advisor and mentor. She actively reaches out to students who she can see are troubled or having challenges beyond the classroom. “Some students,” she says, “just need a deeper level of support.”

The role stretches her time to the limits. She’s been known to start her day at 4 a.m. to pack it all in. Yet she sees advising and mentoring as a natural extension of her work as an educator and adjusts her own schedule to put the needs of the students first.

That commitment recently earned Sobieraj the Lerman-Neubauer Prize for Outstanding Teaching and Advising. She was chosen by seniors at Tufts as the individual who has had the greatest impact on them intellectually, both in and out of the classroom. It is an honor, she says, but not her driving force. What does drive her: “I am simply an educator trying really hard, who cares a lot, working to do the best job possible.”