Encouraging critical thinking and open dialogue captures Larshus' teaching style
Warning: a conversation with Jynette Larshus, assistant sociology professor, is not your garden-variety discussion. For one, Larshus teaches all the "fun classes" on campus, such as "Studies in Deviance," "Drugs & Society", "Culture & Sexuality" and "Contemporary Political Issues," so her answers to questions are witty, insightful, purposeful, and sometimes questions themselves. Second, Larshus' mantra is that she doesn't teach students "what to think, but how to think," such that the interviewer leaves with a broad sense of her mission, and not necessarily her work.
"When it comes to controversial issues, through my teaching, I want to help students articulate why they think what they think, and have the tools to gather the support for those opinions," she says.
Larshus obtained her bachelor's in psychology and criminal justice from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. She then attended the University of Albany-State University of New York where she graduated with a doctorate in sociology.
"As an undergrad, I remember discussing my frustrations about a class with a mentor. He looked at me and said ‘You're frustrated because you're not asking the right questions. You're a sociologist; you know that, right?'" Larshus remembered. "Then I realized I didn't necessarily care about crime, per se, but how something becomes criminal. I am interested in the larger, sociological perspective."
Not surprisingly, her expertise includes social psychology, culture and cultural change and deviance.
After four years of teaching in Nebraska and Georgia, Bottineau native Larshus and her family "came home" when she joined Minot State's faculty in 2009. She splits her time teaching in the sociology and political science departments.
"I love the interpersonal relationships that develop on a smaller campus," she said. "We make the most direct impact on the future in the students that we teach."
In addition to serving on various faculty committees, Larshus advises the Sociology Club, which in recent years, has hosted proactive Town Hall meetings that tackle difficult subjects like affordable housing and cultural diversity. The club also co-organized the American Democracy Free Speech Plaza on Constitution Day. Larshus said both activities require students make connections and engage in the larger community outside of campus. Her goal is to help create "informed, engaged citizenry" of MSU students.