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Meet New Faculty: Athena Elafros

Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in a series of profiles on new, full-time faculty members who have joined the Keuka community.

According to Athena Elafros, sociology is most relevant when it engages students’ personal and professional interests in the society around them, and when it develops their analytical tools for criticism.

The assistant professor of sociology says “the opportunity to facilitate students’ engagements with sociology—as they break down sociological concepts and theories and apply them to situations in their daily lives—is one of the most rewarding and intellectually stimulating aspects of academia.”

In fact, teaching is one of the things that excites the Toronto native most as a sociologist. Prior to arriving at Keuka College, Elafros taught courses at McMaster University (Canada) and Alfred University. At Keuka, she teaches Introduction to Sociology and Ethnic Diversity.

“As a first-generation college student born to immigrant parents, I welcome the opportunity to work with, and educate, other first-generation college students,” said Elafros, who received a bachelor’s degree in sociology and criminology from the University of Toronto, master’s degree in sociology from Queen’s University (Canada), and doctoral degree in sociology from McMaster University. “They are a delight to teach and possess a wealth of first-hand knowledge about the social world. The challenge is to teach them how to draw on this knowledge in a way that promotes critical thinking in the classroom.”

One way she meets that challenge is by employing a variety of popular cultural examples in the classroom, including YouTube and movie clips, memes, music videos, and documentaries.

For Elafros, the biggest draw to Keuka is its students. But she also “likes the College’s small classroom sizes, the impressive employment rate, the excellent student to faculty ratio, and the College’s commitment to accessibility.”

Elafros is also “deeply impressed” with the experiential education opportunities offered to students.

“I believe that the emphasis on experiential education makes Keuka College unique and I am excited to be part of a college that encourages lifelong learning in and out of the classroom,” said Elafros.

For example, Elafros has taken advantage of the TeamWorks! program.

“I have been in contact with [Assistant Manager of TeamWorks!] Molly McGuigan ’11 and have invited her to come to my classes,” she said. “I look forward to further developing and refining a TeamWorks! program for all of my sociology courses, so that students can develop skills in team building, as well as interpersonal and leadership skills that will benefit them regardless of their career path.”

“I am also drawn to Keuka College because of the quality of life in the region,” said Elafros. “The Finger Lakes region is one of the most beautiful areas in New York state and I welcome the opportunity to be able to live and work here. Additionally, my husband is a historian at Alfred University, so it is wonderful to be able to settle down in the region.”

 One thing Elafros wants her students to remember from her classes is how to empathize with others.

“We all have different backgrounds and experiences that shape our personal world views,” said Elafros. “What I teach my students is how to try and connect with others whose perspectives might be quite different from their own. This allows them to effectively communicate with others by understanding their motivations.”

Elafros says this does not mean that you have to agree with those motivations, “but you must be able to see their perspectives so that you can effectively work with them. By empathizing with others, understanding their perspectives, and communicating with them, you will be able to thrive and succeed in a variety of diverse work environments.”

She has published on a variety of subjects, including hip hop culture, popular music magazines, and gay-straight alliances in such publications as Popular Music and SocietyCanadian Review of Sociology/Revue Canadienne de Sociologie, and Cultural Sociology.

Her research has also been published in Icons of Hip Hop: An Encyclopedia of the Movement, Music and Culture, and Race/Gender/Class/Media 3.0: Considering Diversity Across Audiences, Content, and Producers.

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