Maria Frances Cachon’s Story
Sociology and Women’s Studies, University of Windsor
My proudest teaching moment:
I do not have one moment per say, but rather a series of smaller teaching moments. For example, those moments during a lecture when you can sense, you can feel the level of engagement amoung students. When you know they’re not only listening, but are being impacted by what they are learning. Those classes when you facilitate a discussions and students are receptive—passionate, empathetic, and willing to share. It is in these moments that the classroom morphs into an intimate and transformative space. These moments reveal the possibilities and power of cultivating a collaborative learning environment. When I receive affirming emails from students who write to tell me how a course has impacted them and most importantly how a course helped them develop a critical awareness that they now bring to their day-to-day lives. For me, teaching is a privilege and an honour—when I’m in ‘the zone’ it completely feelings like my calling.
My greatest research accomplishment:
I’m very proud of my role as co-investigator for The Tikkun Youth Project, funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SHHRC) and the University of Windsor. This is a transnational partnership among five universities and five community organizations in Ontario, Canada, South Africa and Kosovo. The project’s starting point is Tikkun Olam, the ancient Jewish concept meaning ‘repairing the world’ through acts that promote social justice. Our goal is to reach out to marginalized youth (ages 16-25) from communities particularly in need of restorative justice. We aim to facilitate youth-led ‘informed committed action’ for social justice. The project explores the ways in which marginalized youth participate in the life of a community in order to improve conditions or to helps shape the community’s future. Marginalized youth disproportionately experience social and economic exclusion, which is reinforced by systemic, legal, and institutional barriers. We seek to address these inequalities by fostering the capacity of marginalized youth to challenge the barriers they face and to advocate for positive social change.
How I use my knowledge, research skills and teaching ability to improve my community:
The Tikkun project is a participatory action (PAR) research endeavor, which means that our work has an explicit activist orientation. PAR is a collaborative research process between researchers and communities for the purpose of facilitating community action and pursuing social change. The project is based on consideration, data collection, and knowledge dissemination that aim to enhance community engagement amoung youth and reduce systemic inequalities by involving the youth who, in turn, take actions to improve their own communities.
The challenges I face in my work:
Contract academic work is precarious and often isolating because your scholarly contributions, both research and teaching, are frequently not institutionally supported and recognized. This insecurity meaningfully pervades your working life and can be extremely demoralizing—as is the persistent refusal within the academy to validate teaching as a meaningful form of scholarship.