Whether teaching political science, directing the global studies and international affairs major, advising pre-law students or leading Model United Nations trips to Chicago, David Brooker, PhD, has inspired many Alverno students to engage with the world since he first arrived on campus in 2005. Most recently, he worked with colleagues to develop Alverno’s new community engagement and activism major.
“There’s been an increase in political awareness of students the past four years or so,” he says. “We’re hoping to really ingrain this major into Milwaukee and emphasize skill development, which makes it different from the typical political science major. Instead of making it a traditional study about politics, it’s more about ways that you can create avenues to become engaged in local politics.”
What inspired you to become a teacher?
“It was a late decision. I was well into grad school, and my training was in Soviet politics. And at that time, people with that background overwhelmingly went to work for the government. But a few years later [after the Soviet Union collapsed], the Defense Department wasn’t hiring practically everyone trained in Soviet politics. And after being a teaching assistant in grad school, I realized I liked it. I liked the freedom of it. I actually get paid to talk about things that I find interesting and that I care about.”
What do you love about teaching at Alverno?
“It’s really the focus on teaching and students’ learning. The more I was at Alverno, the more I realized that in more traditional environments, it’s really about grading and ways of separating the B’s from the C’s or the A’s from the B’s. It took years to realize all sorts of things that I did for that purpose. And even feedback was often really grade justification. So it wasn’t, ‘Here’s what you can do to get better.’ It was, ‘Here’s why you got a B-minus.’ Whereas here, it’s about revising and improving and making mistakes, and learning from those mistakes. And so learning that was an adjustment. But once you become comfortable with that adjustment, it’s liberating.”
What do you hope to empower your students to achieve?
“To find their voice, and that can mean different things for different people. I also hope that they engage with the world and understand it. I try to stay away from this idea that we need to fix the world because that implies that we’ve got all the answers. But once a student decides there’s something that needs to be fixed, I hope they think they have the agency to actually try to engage in that process.”
Do you have a favorite memory from your time at Alverno?
“For me, graduation is always memorable. It’s easy to think that it’s just an endless loop, but it’s graduation that really reminds us that Alverno students are on a journey. I really like the fact that I have students at every step of the way and so I get to see that development.”