Samuel Z. Shelton: Teacher, Activist, Scholar

I am a non-binary and queer graduate student at Oregon State University pursuing a Ph.D. in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies with a focus in Queer Studies. My research interests include: violence and trauma; advocacy and activism; and feminist, queer, and other critical pedagogies.

Education

Ph.D. in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies,
Oregon State University,
In Process

M.A. in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Oregon State University,
June 2018


Graduate Certificate in College and University Teaching, Oregon State University,
June 2018


Graduate Minor in Queer Studies, Oregon State University,
May 2018

B.A. in Women's Studies
Iowa State University
May 2016


B.A. in English
Iowa State University
May 2016


B.S. in Sociology
Iowa State University
May 2016

Victim Counselor Certification, Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence
January 2013 to December 2017

Thesis Project

While the contemporary movement against sexual and domestic violence has roots in radical, feminist theory and anti-state, community-based modes of resistance, over the past several decades, advocates and activists have increasingly turned to corporations and the state for support through the non-profit, prison, and medical industrial complexes. This acceptance of state-centered solutions to the issues of sexual and domestic violence raises important questions about the transformative potential of the anti-violence movement as well as advocates’ and activists’ accountability to the communities where we do our work. In particular, the movement’s easy alignment with the neoliberal state and its connection to modern feminist thought raise concerns about the extent to which anti-violence efforts are tainted by – and ultimately reproduce – the normative ways of being, doing, and thinking that enable sexual and domestic violence to continue within our society.

Drawing upon the teachings of intersectionality and queer theories, this thesis seeks to trouble normativity within the anti-violence movement in order to create greater space for the recognition of important differences between victims/survivors of violence in relation to multiple systems of power (e.g. racism, classism, ableism, transphobia, homo/queerphobia) and also to salvage the transformative potential of the anti-violence movement from the throes of a neoliberal state. By way of intersectional, queer analyses, this thesis identifies and responds to the fundamental theoretical and practical concerns distressing the anti-violence movement that place it in a precarious situation defined by isolation from other social justice movements, co-optation by the neoliberal state, and multiple forms of normativity that make personal and social transformation less feasible. This thesis also offers useful interventions, including both theoretical shifts and strategic reformations, that advocates and activists can utilize to overcome current limitations plaguing the anti-violence movement.  


Publications

Shelton, S. “Integrating Crip Theory and Disability Justice into Feminist Anti-Violence Education.” Canadian Journal of Disability Studies 9, no. 5 (2020): 441-463.

Shelton, S. “Cripping Peace and Critical Hope.” Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice 31, no. 4 (2020): 471-478.

Shelton, S. “White Supremacy, Disability Justice, and Harm Reduction Pedagogy: Enacting Anti-Racist Crip Teaching.” Journal Committed to Social Change On Race and Ethnicity 6, no. 1 (2020): 190-208.


Shelton, S. “Teaching and Learning in Pandemic Times: On the Possibilities and Pitfalls of Virtual Learning Technologies.” The Activist History Review (published October 3, 2020).

Shelton, S. “Gendered Violence," and "LGBTQ and Prison Abolition - Learning activity.” In Gendered Voices, Feminist Visions, edited by Susan Shaw and Janet Lee. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2019.

Shelton, S. “A Queer Theorist’s Critique of Online Domestic Violence Advocacy: Critically Responding to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.” Journal of Homosexuality 65, no. 10 (2018): 1275-1298.


Presentations

Shelton, S. (2018). Cisgender Existence in a Postmodern World? Using Queer and Trans Studies to Trouble a Category. Paper Presentation for the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) Annual Conference in Atlanta, GA

Shelton, S. (2018). Disrupting and Reorienting Anti-Violence Work Through Queer Theories of Time and Space. Paper Presentation for the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) Annual Conference in Atlanta, GA

Shelton, S. (2018). (In)sanity and Intimate Betrayals: Using Mad Studies to Inform How and What We Know About Sexual and Domestic Violence. Paper Presentation for the FEMMSS 7 Conference in Corvallis, OR.


Shelton, S. (2018). View from the Tower: Rural Queer Voice in Research and the Academy. Panel Presentation for the 81st Annual Rural Sociological Society Meeting in Portland, OR.

Shelton, S. (2018). The Dangers of the Non-Profit Industrial Complex and Alternative Paths for the Anti-Violence Movement. Paper presentation for the 4th Critical Ethnic Studies Association Conference in Vancouver, BC.

Shelton, S. (2018). Disability Justice in the Anti-Violence Movement: Challenging Ableism in the Struggle Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. Paper presentation for the 4th Critical Ethnic Studies Association Conference in Vancouver, BC.


Shelton, S. (2018). Advocates Empowered: Queering the Contemporary Movement Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. Thesis defense for the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies department at Oregon State University.

Shelton, S. (2018). Heteronormativity, Gender Essentialism, and the Construction of “Safe Space” in the Contemporary Movement Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. Paper presentation for the 37th Annual Lewis & Clark Gender Studies Symposium in Portland, OR.

Shelton, S. (2018). Queering Men’s Involvement in Anti-Violence Work. Paper presentation and discussion at the Oregon State University Diversity and Cultural Engagement (DCE) Examining Masculinities: Through the Looking Glass Conference in Corvallis, OR.


Shelton, S. (2017). Moving Beyond Criminalization: Alternative Strategies for Social Justice in the Contemporary Movement Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. Paper presentation at the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) Annual Conference in Baltimore, MD.

Shelton, S. (2017). A Queer Theorist’s Critique of Online Domestic Violence Advocacy: Critically Responding to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Paper presentation at the 36th Annual Lewis & Clark Gender Studies Symposium in Portland, OR.

Shelton, S. (2016). Intersectionality and Domestic Violence Advocacy: A Critical Discourse Analysis of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence Website. Poster presentation for the Iowa State University Undergraduate Honors Program in Ames, IA.

Teaching Portfolio

Introduction

The following collection of documents represents a sampling of my beliefs, practices, and accomplishments as a teacher. Included here are statements about my teaching philosophy and examples of how I apply this philosophy in the courses I teach. For more information about any of these documents or my approach to teaching more generally, feel free to send me an email.


Statement of Teaching Philosophy

As a teacher of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Queer Studies, I understand that education is simultaneously the greatest tool of subjection and our best hope for liberation from the systems of oppression that constrain our lives and erase our shared histories. For years, I learned to master the twin arts of conformity and complicity, so much so that an internalized social anxiety now over-polices every action I take and every word I say. The notion of queering anything, especially myself, was lost to me until several years ago when I found myself learning about the practice and process of resistance through participating in social-justice oriented classrooms and campus organizing. I quickly immersed myself in this radical, transformative culture, and I thought I had finally found the space where I could begin to reimagine the social landscapes around me. However, the taped-over cracks in this activist culture exposed its lingering divisions. Feminist spaces were full of the able-bodied and able-minded, queer spaces routinely reproduced rape culture and racism, trans and non-binary spaces were non-existent. Despite all of the personal and political intersections that define us, this culture tore social issues apart and left people in distorted fragments. Click here to read more about my teaching philosophy...


What are my responsibilities as a teacher?

My experiences in this toxic activist culture have shaped my teaching philosophy immensely because they have utterly and completely changed how I view myself and the people around me. Each of us is in a never-ending process of becoming, which means that we are always already undergoing personal and political transformations that redefine who we are and what we believe. As a teacher, my greatest goal is to support and guide students’ individual and collective transformations, all the while learning and growing in my own ways. For me, transformative learning is an ongoing process of revision that allows us to transcend the logics of oppression and domination that those in power have ceaselessly forced upon us. Transformative learning provides an opportunity to envision new futures and the paths-less-taken that will direct us to them. The Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Queer Studies classes I teach encourage transformative learning through critical engagement with texts and ideas that subvert normativity and hegemony and propose alternative futurities. They are spaces where students explore the social construction of deviance and embrace the radical potential of difference. They are spaces where students can find or, perhaps, lose themselves in the twin processes of learning and unlearning.


Queer theory and intersectionality theory have played key roles in my development as a scholar and a teacher. I believe that all teachers in feminist and queer classrooms have a responsibility to interrogate identity and help students to see the intersections between different systems of oppression. As social justice-oriented disciplines, our classes empower students to become involved in movements for social change, and we have a responsibility to guide students toward the knowledge and resources they need to become leaders in their communities. All too often, activists reproduce histories of exclusion and erasure that could be avoided through education that emphasizes intersectionality and queer theory. I strive to engage students with deeper questions about the methods of power and the need for coalition building. For instance, using critical readings from Cathy Cohen, Dean Spade, and Eli Clare, I stimulate students to think about who has access to social justice movements, which subjects these movements represent, and how dissonance between these movements hurts the people they allegedly support. For example, despite the growing awareness of ableism in many feminist and queer spaces, teachers often ignore how existing social arrangements affect people with disabilities, or they keep discussions about disability at a surface level, but, as I demonstrate in the example activity below, I routinely draw from my own experiences with disability to facilitate students’ engagement with ableism, both within social movements and more generally.


How do I create inclusive learning environments?

Thinking about social justice and activism intersectionally and queerly is vital to the success of classes I teach, but it is equally important to me that I recognize the specificity of my experiences and protect students in the classroom. As someone who receives many benefits from current social arrangements, I make my continual growth as a scholar and teacher a priority in my work. Reflexive practices in and outside of the classroom allow me to remain aware of where I currently am in process of self-discovery and where I want to go as I move forward. Comments from students and colleagues have helped me to reposition my body in the classroom so that it is less awkward and more welcoming to students, to become more patient and supportive as students work through problems or gather their thoughts, and to develop creative activities that challenge students to more deeply engage with texts and ideas. I now understand that a willingness to make myself vulnerable – through sharing stories, acknowledging my privileges, or admitting that I do not know everything – generates space for students to be vulnerable. They are more willing to talk about difficult topics when I have shown them how and invited them to do so. Modeling vulnerability is especially useful when asking students to participate in the daunting exercise of imagining queer new futures. For example, in multiple classrooms, I have read parts of my queer disability story before asking students to talk about their experiences with systems of oppression.


There is a fine line between asking students to be vulnerable in a classroom with their peers and putting them in unsafe and unproductive situations where their first thought is how to protect themselves. In feminist and queer classrooms, fostering an inclusive learning community that does not cross this line is an ongoing process with constant revision. Tenets of universal design prepare me to educate diverse learners, but no amount of preparation can account for the individual needs of every student nor can it anticipate the shifting relations of a class. Therefore, while I can draw some hardlines (e.g. respecting people’s names and pronouns), much of what defines an inclusive learning environment changes from one term to the next and even within the context of an individual class. I have found that setting aside some time throughout the term to have them reflect on their experiences with the class is the best way to ensure that I am meeting their learning and safety needs. In the first week, I ask students to revise a list of classroom responsibilities based on their experiences in academia. We renew the list every few weeks, but I reserve the right to make some changes as necessary. I also request that students respond in writing to each of my teaching strategies so I can understand their strengths and where I have room for improvement in terms of meeting diverse learners’ needs.


What forms do my assessments take?

Creating an inclusive learning environment also involves selecting assessments that recognize students’ diverse experiences and ways of knowing. Far from being neutral, assessments reveal which forms of knowledge our society values and often make it easier for some students to succeed than others. Much of the time, assessments exist for no other reason than to document students’ successful completion of a class, but, under the right conditions, they can be so much more. I believe in authentic assessment, which not only allows me to assess how well students are doing in the course, but also offers them an opportunity to leave class with something meaningful that they can use to improve their lives, whether that’s an experience, a creative project, a paper, or something else entirely. I believe assessments should be student-centered and empowering. For instance, in the annotated syllabus and lesson plan I provide below, I describe a formative assessment that calls on students to demonstrate their understanding of web design and development by creating their own personal or professional websites through weekly coding labs. This assessment not only informs me about their engagement with coding languages, but also leaves them with a tangible product they can use to express themselves and/or apply for graduate school, scholarships, or a job. I also describe a summative assessment that shows me students’ grasp of feminist web design while also encouraging them to figure out techniques for doing virtual activism around issues that matter to them. These authentic assessments challenge the idea that students should produce things just so I can assess them. Assessments should be practical and useable.


What kind of teacher am I striving to become?

Few aspects of my teaching philosophy belong entirely to me. Much of my pedagogical practice comes from the professors that have taken me in, kindly shattered my perceptions of the world, and redefined how I live my life. Almost everyone has had professors that transformed us at some fundamental level, which is the guiding inspiration for many of us in the academy, myself included. During my undergrad, I had one professor who consistently taught me that I have so much more to learn. Every time I dared to think I had learned all I could from her, she would utter something truly profound that left me with a clear sense of how thoroughly wrong I was. This professor embodies my aspirations for the future, and she gives me motivation to keep pressing forward in my pursuit of personal growth. I strive to be as kind, supportive, and knowledgeable to my students as she has been to me. As a result of this effort, I have been able to empower students to become fiercer scholars and to navigate the complexities of the university. Once, directly following a class session in which I shared parts of my disability story to start a conversation about ableism, a student actually came up to me and expressed their gratitude for my vulnerability because it helped them realize they were not alone in their need for accommodations. Another student approached me on the same day to let me know how hearing my story had changed their perceptions of disability and helped them to see that disability is not just “out there.” While I do not believe that their lives will be forever changed because of my teaching, I do believe that I provided them with useful tools and support to reevaluate their understandings of their world, which is the best thing any teacher can do for their students.


Online Teaching Philosophy

Many educators are suspicious of online teaching, and act as if the loss of a brick and mortar classroom will necessarily diminish the quality of learning that can take place. Such suspicions haunt social justice educators, including those in Women's and Gender Studies, as well because they feel anxious about the possibility of facilitating meaningful engagement with resistant and transformative texts in virtual spaces. However, "education as the practice of freedom" - to quote bell hooks - necessitates that teachers explore the liberatory potential of online learning, which can support visions of intersectional justice along multiple axes of difference. Click here to read a few of the ways that my approach to online teaching promotes inclusivity, equity, and social justice...


  • I construct online courses with my students in mind using principles of accessible design and disability justice. I include many different kinds of content, ranging from more academic books and articles to novels to comics to videos to images to websites and applications. Rather than imposing my expectations, I ask students to involve themselves in the formation of our online learning community, which allows them to voice their access needs and makes requests from me and the other students. This practice is particularly important in the context of coursework that considers issues of inequity and injustice


  • When teaching online, I create space for students to direct their own learning and engage with content in ways that are meaningful for them. The asynchronous nature of online assignments and group discussions allows students to process information and participate in the course as they are able to do so. I seek out methods to increase this flexibility, which supports the access needs of students with disabilities as well as others who might need to participate in the course on their own terms, such as parents with young children or working students. Self-directed learning supports feminist goals of equity and justice.


  • Because online learners tend to come from all over (geographically and intellectually), students bring with them diverse experiences, understandings, and desires. Using creative and authentic assessments, such as the creation of an online portfolio, I encourage students to interact with course content and each other on a personal level in a way that encourages community-building. For many disadvantaged students, distance education is the only option for engaging with texts and concepts representative of their own experiences of inequity and injustice, so creating opportunities for them to make connections with others is a form of care work that I deeply value as a feminist instructor.


  • Using an assortment of virtual tools (e.g. kumu.io) and active learning techniques, I invite students to explore course content in relation to their own social location and personal context. Whether building a portfolio website to display their accomplishments or coming up with practical interventions for the social issues impacting their lives, I strive to empower students to make use of learning outside of the virtual classroom. Many of my course projects, for instance, involve engaging with non-profit and social justice organizations as well as activist collectives in ways that promote social justice. Students learns about feminism and web design through analyses of actual websites.


Annotated Syllabus Components

This syllabus is for Gender & Science, which is a course I developed through consultation with professors in the Graduate Certificate in College and University Teaching (GCCUT) program and the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department. In this section, I look at some key points from the syllabus that demonstrate the strengths of the course. Click here to view more...


Course Description

I wrote the course description in a way that I feel captures the practical and theoretical contributions of this class to the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies course catalogue. The strongest part of this description is its focus on activism and social change. This description speaks directly to potential students and clearly tells what they will gain from the course.


Is technology a tool for social progress, or does it put control in the hands of the powerful? Can web design be a critical site of feminist resistance to social injustice and oppression? In this class, we will explore how power, oppression, and resistance operate in virtual spaces, and we will develop the tools to do feminism online. You will leave this course with an understanding of how to code simple, static websites that you can use to engage in social justice work, education, and other kinds of activism. Finally, we will explore contemporary feminist issues determined by students in the class.


Learning Outcomes

The learning outcomes not only speak to the two parallel foci of this course - coding and feminism - but also show how deeply interconnected they can become in practice. In particular, they expose the ways in which technology is a site of power and control with the potential for subjection and resistance. These learning outcomes also support the course’s practicality as I expect students to use information from the course in their activism.


Create a simple, static website using tenets of accessible and inclusive web design.

Evaluate contemporary social issues using a feminist interpretive lens and propose activist interventions.

Assess theories about the relationship between power and technology


Strategies for Success

I created this list of strategies for success to help students think about actions they can take to improve their performance in the class and make their academic workload more manageable. This is the kind of list that I would provide at the start of a course, and I would encourage students to expand the list and customize it to their specific needs.


Create a weekly schedule that will help you complete readings/videos and assignments on time.

Engage in active reading by questioning, challenging, and responding to the assigned readings.

Ask for help when you need it. All of your questions are important. The Q&A Discussion Board is always available!

Practice self-care and seek out resources on campus. Listen to your body and know your limits.

Enter our virtual learning space prepared to witness and willing to consider new perspectives from your classmates.

Find a friend or group of friends to talk about class with and share ideas.

Connect topics, concepts, and ideas we talk about to your life to make them more relevant to you.


Example Formative and Summative Assessments

These assessments come from the class I describe in the annotated syllabus. The formative assessment is a good example of a weekly coding lab in which students incorporate multimedia content into their personal/professional websites. The summative assessment is the final project for the course in which students collaborate to design and develop a shared website that showcases the various feminist issues they researched for the course. Both of these artifacts come directly from the course and have not been altered for this portfolio. Click here to view more...


Formative Assessment

Coding Lab 1

For this first coding lab, you will begin the process of designing and developing your personal website. By the end of the week (Friday at 11:59 p.m.), you should have completed the following steps:


- Decide on a design for the website, including its appearance, organization, navigation, content, and anything else that is relevant for you. While it will most likely change throughout the term, having an idea of what you want to build will help you to write more efficient, better organized code. It is perfectly fine if you do not yet know how to produce all aspects of your design. We will learn new coding concepts and practices throughout the term that will enable you to create more in-depth and diverse webpages. You can always come back to your code later on to add things in.


- After watching this week’s videos and deciding on your design, create the foundations for the homepage of your site. The specific content you put on this page is up to you, but you must incorporate the following items: 2 or more headings of different levels (e.g. H1, H2, H3); 2 paragraphs describing (1) the personal / professional website you are going to build throughout the weekly coding labs and (2) a brief description of your personal and/or professional life, whichever makes more sense for your proposed website; A list (ordered or unordered) of the content you want to include on your website. For example, if you are making a blog, then you might include a list of the topics you want to write about.


Summative Assessment

Project Summary

In this assignment, the class will collaborate to develop a website exhibiting the diverse feminist issues, perspectives, and interventions that we have explored in this term. Individually, you will be responsible for creating a single webpage that effectively communicates your chosen feminist issue. Starting in the second half of the term, we will discuss how we want to structure the website and what we want it to look like. Together, we will decide how to make the website rhetorically effective, accessible, inclusive, and otherwise useful. We will draw from readings about power, oppression, and resistance in an effort to make this project a meaningful site for social change through education.


Expectations

The class will be responsible for determining the overarching characteristics of our website, including organization and information architecture. I will evaluate the collaborative efforts of the class in terms of the following: Does the website demonstrate an expansive understanding of rhetorically effective, accessible, and inclusive web design? Does it feel appropriate to its purpose and for its audience? Does the arrangement of content on the website help users to easily locate information? Is the organization of the website well thought-out in a way that supports a positive user experience? Is the website cohesive from page to page without notable discrepancies?


Individually, you will be responsible for developing a single webpage that represents your research on the feminist issue you chose for the “Research Paper” assignment. You will need to adapt your writing style and content to effectively communicate your ideas on the webpage you create. Specifically, your webpage must include a discussion of the issue you chose, its roots/causes, and the interventions you proposed. I will evaluate your individual webpage in terms of the following: Is your code well-organized, readable, and functional with few technical errors? Is the content of your webpage substantive and crafted to meet the needs of a virtual viewing audience? Is it rhetorically appropriate given your chosen feminist issue? Does the design of your webpage align with other parts of the website in a way that contributes to a feeling of cohesiveness? Does it lend credibility to our class project? Is it clear that put time, energy, and critical thought into your webpage? Is your webpage free of spelling and grammatical errors?


Progression

This assignment progresses through multiple stages that will help you complete it more efficiently within the given time constraints. The stages are as follows: The first draft of your research paper will be due by the end of Week 6. A rough draft of your webpage will be due Monday of Week 8 for peer review. A second draft of your webpage will be due Monday of Week 9 for peer review. The final draft of your webpage will be due by the end of Week 10.


As always, I encourage you to ask questions early and often to ensure that you do well on this assignment and in the course more generally.


Example of Quality Content

Mia Mingus’ blog (https://leavingevidence.wordpress.com/) is an example of the type of media that you might engage with in this course. This website is an example of feminist activism in practice in a virtual space, and it is also a potential template for what you might develop through your weekly coding labs. This class is meant to help you develop the skills to analyze blogs and other virtual spaces like this in terms of both their content and their rhetorical effectiveness.