Larshus, living authentically

By Amanda Duchsherer
Digital Communications Specialist

MINOT, N.D. – Jynette Larshus, Minot State associate professor of sociology and political science, has three answers that are not allowed in her classroom.

“One is because I heard it on TV. Two is because it’s always been that way and three is because my parents told me so,” she said. “Now, you can agree with the outcomes of all three of those answers and that’s fine, but you must come to the answer yourself.”

The impetus of Larshus’s job is giving her students the tools to be critical about the information they receive.

“It’s not my job to tell them what is true or what is factual. People’s understanding of facts is based on their personal and social histories. There is a lot of inter-subjectivity,” she said. “My job is to give them the skill set, the tool set, to be critically informed consumers of knowledge.”

Inter-subjectivity is an arena Larshus knows well. Even her recent SGA Professor of the Year award for the college of arts and sciences serves as a lesson.

“I’m happy and honored and thankful, but there is also a degree of doubting the worthiness,” she said. “As a sociologist, I also know that women tend to undervalue their contributions much more than men do. There is always a part of me that wonders, ‘Is this just because I’m playing into my gender role?’ There are all these dynamics that are playing in.”

Her honest answer reflects her teaching style.

“I try very hard to be authentic, and I try really hard to get my students to be authentic,” Larshus said. “The questions I hate most is, ‘Well, what do you want me to say?’ I don’t want you to tell me what you think I want to hear. I want you to show me that you can take what you learn and apply it to increasing your understanding. I might disagree with you, but if you can back it up, that’s a great answer.”

Authenticity is a tenet Larshus lives outside the classroom, too.

While two years into graduate school and interested in cultures and changing dynamics, she married her husband Aaron Thompson, a professional snowboarder, and found a subject area to start researching in line with her interests. 

“What I’m really interested in is cultural dynamics and making deviance normative and what that process involves,” she said. “How do people deal with conflicting cultural norms?

“Twenty years ago, snowboarding was relatively new, it hadn’t been part of the Olympics yet, there was still a number of resorts that banned snowboarding, so these were very much the deviance of the ski resort community. I was seeing tensions develop as snowboarding became more mainstream, as it became, quote-unquote, more professional, but it really boiled down to them having to buy into a cultural ethos of skiing. But they had defined their whole existence into opposition to it. So how do you deal with that?”

It wasn’t long before Larshus began interviewing people in the culture, gathering data and information.

In Spring 2020, she will begin her sabbatical research project, “Tensions of Transformation in Snowboarding Culture: From Lifestyle Sporting Activity to Legitimate Occupation,” a culmination of two decades of research.

“I’ll interview a lot of the same people I interviewed 15 years ago. Now I can go back and say, ‘All right, this is what you were seeing then, this is what you told me then. How has it changed?’” she said. “Basically, how do you basically deal with all these cultural tensions?”

Larshus will take what she learns from sabbatical and do what she always does with her external experiences: apply it to classroom and the world of sociology.

About Minot State University
Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 08/06/19   

» More MSU News