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“Dr. Deviance” Wins Liberal Arts Teaching Award

Dr. Eric Silver, a sociology and crime, law, and justice professor in the College of the Liberal Arts, was named this year’s Malvin and Lea Bank Outstanding Teacher.

Established through the generosity of Malvin and Lea Bank, both Penn State and the College of the Liberal Arts. alumni. Dr. Silver is the first educator in the college to win the award, which was established in 2012.

The award provides a $5,000 grant to recipients in order to “reward and publicize excellent teaching and to inspire others to become excellent teachers.” Winners are expected to hold a public lecture on teaching. For more information, head over to Liberal Arts’ website.

While Silver has completed extensive research on many topics, particularly on morality and other topics in deviance, he is best known among students for his course in the Sociology of Deviance, colloquially known as SOC (or CRIM) 406.

The class, which surveys topics in deviance such as BDSM, white supremacy, and evil in society, is continuously popular among students within the College of the Liberal Arts and beyond. Silver puts a heavy emphasis on discussion and idea sharing throughout the course, both in class and through social media. While some topics can get sensitive, he tries to bring in guest speakers with a personal connection to topics to encourage students to take a naturalistic, objective viewpoint rather sticking to initial judgments. As an alumna of the course, I can attest that Silver’s charismatic teaching style and thought-provoking lectures really challenge you to think beyond your preconceived notions of what is right and wrong.

“Eric strives not only to impart facts to students, but rather, he teaches students to think sociologically about the world around them,” said Susan Welch, dean of the College of the Liberal Arts, to Penn State News. “He helps to provide a new lens to see social structures that we typically take for granted in everyday life.”

In 2005, the College of the Liberal Arts named Silver an outstanding teacher. Aside from his role as a professor, Silver is currently the associate head for the sociology department. He is also the college’s Associate Dean for Research.

“To be recognized publically for doing something one absolutely loves is a true blessing,” said Silver. “I will use the award to further integrate innovative technologies into my teaching and to bring new and exciting guest speakers into the classroom to share their experiences with students in a way that brings the sociological study of deviant behavior to life.”

Here’s a sample of some of the content of Silver’s Sociology of Deviance course, though I’d greatly recommend enrolling in it to see for yourself.

About the Author

Ali Fogarty

Ali Fogarty is a senior from the suburbs of Philadelphia majoring in Public Relations and Political Science who's passionate about Netflix and everything bagels.


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