Sociology associate professor
By Heather Turner
April 27, 2016
Sociology Associate Professor Scott Akins came to Oregon State University in 2004, where he teaches classes both on campus and online through OSU Ecampus. In addition to teaching, Scott also serves as a governor-appointed full member of the State of Oregon Law Enforcement Contacts Policy Committee and is a member of the Willamette Criminal Justice Commission. In 2014, Scott received the OSU College of Liberal Arts Master Teacher, Thomas R. Meehan Excellence in Teaching Award. He earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Northern Arizona University, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in sociology from Washington State University.
Briefly describe your role as an Ecampus instructor:
“I design all of my classes and guide students through the process of taking them. I especially love the design part, as it enables me to get creative about presenting my course content in unique and interesting ways via the online, asynchronous format. I also learn something new about design and teaching presentation every time I develop or redevelop a course, and I use this knowledge to improve my on-campus and online teaching.”
What made you decide to get into this field of study?
“I am a criminologist and became interested in the field as I was a bit of a juvenile delinquent growing up. After experiencing criminal behavior and law enforcement from the ‘other side,’ I became very interested in studying the behavior, why it occurs and what can be done to prevent it. I was fortunate enough to have a course on criminology during my high school career – this is not common – and it basically took off from there.”
Briefly describe any current research projects you’re working on:
“I am currently working on a book on the legalization of marijuana and I have ongoing projects in the areas of the epidemiology of drug use, recent immigration and crime, and police contacts with persons with mental illness.”
What do you like most about teaching sociology online?
“I love being able to work with students who would not otherwise be able to access higher education. I think one of the best things about Ecampus is that it provides opportunity for these individuals to pursue the goals of education and career advancement that might otherwise be denied to them. It is also fun to access a more diverse population, often with interesting work and life experiences that can sometimes be less common in the traditional classroom setting – though I love that part of teaching, too! This diversity of experience really contributes to the course, enriching the experience for everyone.”
What are the benefits of online learning?
“There are many benefits, but probably the most central is the convenience of accessing the material at any time of the day. Many of my students juggle very complicated schedules, e.g. military, people living abroad, those with a very busy work and family lives. The ability to engage the material repetitively can also be very helpful, especially for those who don’t learn well in a traditional lecture or other form of classroom setting.”
How do you build a genuine connection with students who, in many cases, you’ll never meet in person?
“I often schedule phone calls or Skype/net chats with students, especially those struggling with some type of the content. Additionally, I find that being very responsive, via any form of communication method, is important as students understand there is a teacher on the other side of the computer who cares about them and their performance in the class.”
What advice would you like to give to students?
“Choose a field of study that you are passionate about. Academic success requires hard work, but hard work is generally enjoyable when it is directed toward a goal that one cares a great deal about.”
What are your favorite activities outside of work?
“I love sports and physical activity. I am into CrossFit and I love to ski and cycle – both road and mountain. I also love dogs – especially my two furry kids – and reading. I travel as much as my schedule and budget allow, and I love spending time with friends and family.”