By Chloé Margulis
This past Monday, March 23, Brian Sweeney, assistant professor of Sociology, was awarded the 2015 David Newton Award for Excellence in Teaching, along with Tung-lung Steven Chang, and Linda L. Vila. A professor gets nominated and must then submit material for review, including the professor’s syllabi, assignments, and teaching philosophy.
Sweeney has taught at LIU Post since fall 2007. He teaches courses on youth, gender, sexuality, and education. “I find the teaching part of my job very fulfilling,” Sweeney said about working closely with students. “Receiving the award provides affirmation of my commitment to work closely with students.”
Sweeney completed his undergraduate education at Ohio Wesleyan University, a small liberal arts school of about 2,000 students. He studied many subjects, including English, sociology, and anthropology. He enjoyed the social aspect of college life, because everyone was active and involved, as well as the academic part of college life. Sweeney said that “taking classes, leaning more about the world, and developing skills like writing [made me] really love my college experience.”
Since Sweeney began college, he was enthralled by sociology. “I greatly admired my professors and they seemed to have good jobs!” he exclaimed. The fall semester after his undergraduate graduation, Sweeney was back in the books in graduate school at Indiana University, and he stayed there for the next seven years.
“I had doubts at some points along the way, but I am glad I stayed on course. And now I have the job I wanted,” Sweeney said about his experience in graduate school. Starting in his third year in grad school, he was already teaching.
Sweeney pegs his Sociology of Sexuality class to always be a fun class to teach. “Most students have never taken a course related to sexuality,” he explained, “and the class is a big eye-opener.” The classes are open forums, populated by frank discussions about a wide range of sexuality-related issues. The class helps students make sense of all the confusing and harmful messages about sexuality in our current society.
When Sweeney is not teaching sociology courses, he is busy researching several subjects. First, he is looking at gender and sexuality among young adults, and writing a piece that looks at “slut stigma” and “slut shaming” for women. As fascinated as Sweeney is by the intersection of gender and sexuality, he believes that sexuality remains an important part for the production of gender difference and inequality, despite a lot of gains toward gender equality.
Sweeney believes his job in this field gives him the opportunity, however small, to try and address these social problems. The other subject he is currently researching involves studying how friendships encourage healthy and successful aging among LGBT older adults.
Sweeney still finds the time to engage in other activities. He is part of the American Sociological Association and the Eastern Sociological Society. He attends meetings to present his research and learn about the other research in the field. In 2013, he was in charge of reviewing and selecting presentations related to the sexualities section of the American Sociological Organization. This year, he will be continuing his legacy as the presider over presentations related to youth and risky behavior.
Sweeney’s students rave about his teaching technique and classes. Mikki Rosman, now a success coach with LIU Promise, decided to try several of Sweeney’s classes because she had so many electives included in her major.
“He’s not just here to teach about the course curriculum or to follow a syllabus, he teaches you about life,” Rosman said. “I was eager to learn about current events, passionate about injustice and he was right there to inform us, to spark an interest and awareness in us.”
Eliza Sefton, a senior Sociology major, said that Sweeney “puts a great amount of thought and effort into preparing for his lectures and assignments.” The classes were engaging and allowed students to question and participate with freedom from apprehension.
Myles Goldman, a freshman Forensics major, agreed that, “Dr. Sweeney was always helpful and could apply current events to sociological conversations.”
Rosman felt that Sweeney helped her grow as an individual. “Dr. Sweeney shaped my passion for helping others, for being aware of differences, and for being an activist,” she explained. Furthermore Sefton said, “As a Sociology major, he has really helped me to understand what it means to think sociologically.”
“Sweeney definitely helped me in becoming more confident in my ability to make change possible and to know that people can make a difference, him being a perfect example,” Rosman said.