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Dr. D. Scharie Tavcer, Ph.D

Associate Faculty at CityU

Dr. D. Scharie Tavcer has been teaching undergraduate and graduate students since 2004 in the disciplines of criminology, sociology, human rights, and psychology. Dr. Tavcer believes in teaching that has components of experiential learning and/or community service learning. This involves incorporating lived experience into her lectures or with off-campus events as well as providing students with real world scenarios with real people in real situations.

Dr. Tavcer is the 2019 recipient of the MacEwan University Distinguished Alumni Award: Skip to 1:57:37. Click this link.

Professional page

For the most part, I am a second reader for theses/projects for CPC 695/696. In the past, I have been the faculty supervisor and teacher of CPC 695/696.

Research and Expertise
  • Offenders and the barriers and challenges of reintegrating into the community
  • Violence against women; sexual violence; relationship violence
  • Sexual consent education at post-secondary institutions
  • Feminist lens to understanding crime, social disorder, and the criminal justice system
  • Victims and service that is trauma informed care
  • Poverty offending and the interconnections of poverty and the law
  • Mental illness; addiction
  • Occupational stress injuries of front-line workers
  • Criminal law
Publications
Teaching

I heard Gloria Steinem once say that “it is not important what a woman chooses to do but rather why she chooses to do it.” She stated this in relation to all of the many choices women make on a daily basis – from their appearance to their employment – and to question if the purpose is to please society’s expectations or their own. I also apply the saying to why I choose certain topics and strategies in my teaching and why I chose a career in teaching.

For almost 15 years I’ve had the opportunity to teach at a university that prides itself on small class sizes, on-going instructor development, and teaching excellence. I am proud to teach students who wish to enter the criminal justice profession. Many of my students come to university directly out of high school with only a narrow view of the world. Others have some lived experience. But all of them hope to make a difference in the world. Their why is about helping people; my why is to provide them with the skills to do those jobs ethically and admirably. Our criminal justice program excels at preparing students for justice work by developing their criminological literacy, increasing their interpersonal strengths, and providing them with experiential learning opportunities through practicum placements or advanced research through honours supervision. There are many places along their trajectory wherein I can positively steer them towards seeing the world and its people within it, more broadly.

Tina Seelig purports that “Effective teaching focuses on why and how, not what. The goal should be to spark each student’s imagination, to find a hook in their heart and mind so that they feel a need to learn the material.”

Social justice

I want to inspire my students to know more – to question what they already think about sexual assault or addiction for example, and to be inspired to critically question their position so that they can consider another person’s perspective, such as the victim’s, the offender’s, a woman’s, and/or society’s role in those crimes and crises. This to me is teaching through a social justice lens. 

Social justice is encompassed in the everyday acts “to promote peace, justice, equity, and to ameliorate problems related to poverty, violence, discrimination, and oppression. As such, any analysis or action of social justice requires that our habits and practices around power and powerlessness be interrogated.”

I want to inspire my students to ask what are the larger systems at play that facilitate inequities, that perpetuate these crises, how our criminal justice system responds, and to wondering what can we do to improve the client, our community and society’s experience? 

I love that I teach first and third year students. With first-year students I get the chance to introduce them to the degree program and to lay the foundation of social justice by presenting different perspectives within society and about the justice system. I call it ‘popping bubbles.’ Many of our students come from privileged upbringings without real exposure to victims, offenders, racism, sexism, marginalization, or social injustices. As such, I believe it is my job to open those doors of awareness, which at times may just pop some of their bubbles of comfort. This I hope, sets them on a path to be inspired to question, reflect, and learn more. Then with third-year students, I invite them to dig deeper into these topics and crises. One of my favourite courses is Crisis Intervention, which helps students gain confidence, understanding, and skills to assist clients in crisis (such as sexual violence, addiction, mental illness etc.). I teach through stories and continue popping bubbles where needed. Then hopefully they will be inspired to examine their own compassion and empathy about these topics and the individuals involved. 

Goals

All of this drives me to stay connected to the justice sector (e.g., incorporating practitioners’ tools, methods, programs etc.), and to engage in professional development (e.g., practitioner-focused workshops), and to participate in change-making activities (e.g., Take Back the Night march, #metoo movement etc.). My belief is that if I remain inspired to be impact change, then that energy will find its way into my teaching and that in turn, will support students as they prepare for the work world.  I believe that although theoretical and philosophical models are necessary in teaching criminal justice, inspiration can only be sparked and maintained via applied research and practical skills.

How I do this is to create a classroom environment where students feel safe to think and reflect, and to express thoughts and feelings that sometimes come from those bubble-popped places and become controversial. I present material in a way that exposes students to broader perspectives and marginalized contexts that will (hopefully) impact their worldview. This is no easy task, but I believe that if I start my teaching practice from a foundation rooted in information (presented in a safe environment) and inspiration (presented in a way that sparks questions), that student learning will blossom. My why is to prepare them to respectfully use the power and privilege they will have over society’s vulnerable and marginalized populations. My why is to add competent and compassionate workers into the criminal justice system. 

A turning point

Creating a safe classroom environment was not always in the front of my mind. This shifted during one semester of teaching the Crisis Intervention course about 10 years ago, where a student’s experience caused me to consider. The content that day was heavy, opinion-laden, and controversial. The student took me aside and disclosed her own traumatic experiences with domestic violence. She was triggered by the course content and was so distraught that she could barely speak. When I started teaching this course, my approach was very content-driven, detached, and serious. This student’s trust in me, her vulnerability in sharing her story, forced me to re-examine my responsibilities when teaching this course and its powerful content. From that point onwards, my approach shifted. I teach through stories, with empathy for the people in those stories as well as the students in the classroom. I teach by sharing my own strengths and limitations from working in the justice system, with a mixture of seriousness and humour. My why is because those strategies and stories will cultivate an empathetic connection with them to inspire them to learn, reflect, and contribute to the justice system (and the people within it), in a competent but also compassionate manner.

Strategies and impact

My formal student perceptions of teaching are consistently strong but there are two common threads that appear and cause me to reflect: whether or not the learning environment is supportive; and the impact of my feminist pedagogy.

I use stories and create exercises that bring students together for a trusting journey. My stories always center on those marginalized and critically question the status quo. Our program is cohort-based and reinforcing their peer connections can support the journey and their acceptance of my critical perspective. I tap into their why – that they want to help people.  My first class always includes an ice-breaking exercise that requires students to meet and interact with each other. There was one semester however, when I forgot to implement the ice-breaking exercise on day one. Through the semester, I noticed how the class dynamic was markedly different from any other I taught. I wanted to understand why and asked for their input in an online anonymous survey. The consistent response was that they did not know each other and didn’t feel comfortable talking and sharing, reflecting and challenging. This was an A-HA moment! In order to connect with my students, to encourage them to connect and challenge with the material, they need to be able to connect with each other. Every semester onwards I include the ice-breaking exercise.

I am most proud of…

Almost every semester when I teach Crisis Intervention, a student discloses a traumatic experience or seeks information to support a friend or family member in their experience. I am proud that they feel safe enough to seek help from me. I am proud that they turn to me for support so that I can be a resource for accurate and helpful information. 

I am most concerned about…

Where I feel I’ve failed is when I see a student enter my class with a set belief about the world, about the justice system, or about victims or offenders, and finish the course without any movement towards a more inclusive outlook. I feel this is a failure because I wasn’t able to inspire them to consider a broader perspective. I feel this is a failure because teaching about social justice didn’t inspire them to reflect. 

The epitome of an undergraduate liberal education is to open a student’s mind, to support their growth, to empower and prepare them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change, and to prepare them for citizenship. 

The reason I teach, the why, is because I want to be a part of that change making. Therefore, I will continue to enhance my teaching and professional development and strive towards innovative ways in which to inspire my students towards social justice. 

Courses
  • A second reader for theses/projects for CPC 695/696. 
  • In the past, I have been the faculty supervisor and teacher of CPC 695/696.
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