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UM Professor receives Humanities Teacher Year award

Sociology professor Jeffrey Jackson reflects on his recent Mississippi Humanities Council’s teacher of the year award and the public lecture he delivered this past Thursday.
Gaetano Catelli

Jeffrey Jackson, associate professor of sociology at The University of Mississippi, was recently selected as the Mississippi Humanities Council’s 2012 Teacher of the Year.

The Humanities Teacher Awards recognize the contributions of humanities faculty at each of the state’s colleges and universities. Nominations are made by the college president or humanities dean, and Jackson’s name was put forward for the award because he had previously won the Cora Lee Graham Award for Outstanding Teaching of Freshmen.

“It is an honor to have one of our faculty members represented next to some of the best scholars in the state,” said Kirsten Dellinger, chair of the sociology and anthropology department. “Dr. Jackson puts his students first and works hard to spark their imaginations by drawing them into dialogues about pressing issues, including globalization, poverty and racism.”

Holly Reynolds, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts, also praised Jackson’s innovative style of teaching.

“His courses challenge students to think critically about our society,” Reynolds said. “Since he arrived at the university in 1999, more than 1,500 freshmen have been introduced to the kinds of ideas that open a new way of looking at the world.”

Broadcast journalism senior Jane Ball took one of Jackson’s sociology classes this past spring.

“Everything he said was influential,” Ball said. “No matter what the topic was, it was never a dull moment.”

Each recipient of the award is required to prepare and deliver a public lecture upon receiving the honor. Dellinger said Jackson’s lecture, which focused on his global South research, was a testament to his “engaging teaching lifestyle.”

“As far as some of the main points, if you think about poverty on a worldwide scale, 2 billion of the world’s population is living on less than $2 a day,” Jackson said. “I was interested in exploring whether or not some of those 2 billion people live in the United States.”

Jackson said he was also interested in discovering ways that poverty in wealthy countries overlaps with poverty in poor areas.

“In a state like Mississippi, we are much more familiar with the reality of extreme poverty than in other places in the country,” Jackson said. “For that reason, I think we (Mississippi) are (in) a good place to be working on these issues as scholars.”

Jackson said that throughout the award process, the university has been supportive of his research of the “global South.”

“Chancellor Jones has said one of the things we need to do better as a university is address the problems we face in state,” he said

When Jones was first introduced to the university, Jackson said he remembers him asking: “What does it mean to be a great university in a poor state?”

To answer that question, Jackson said, “One of the things it should mean is that we should be providing leadership on issues that affect people in the state, people in poverty and looking for solutions in those kinds of problems.”