Assistant professor of sociology Jennifer Zoltanski is proud to be part of MCLA's mission to provide an excellent liberal arts education at a public-college cost.
Comparing MCLA to the private institutions she studied and taught at before arriving on campus, she said, "I liked that idea of making a really, good, solid education accessible to people who might not be able to afford to go to places like Wheaton College."
Zoltanski, who arrived at MCLA in fall 2009, earned her Ph.D. in sociology from Brandeis University in Boston before going on to teach at nearby Wheaton College.
"I'd heard of MCLA when I was at Brandeis as a grad student, but I'd never been up to the Berkshires. I heard of this funky, little liberal arts college and they had a position opening. I applied, and part of it was real serendipity," she said.
The education students receive at MCLA is comparable to many well-known institutions, according to Zoltanski. At MCLA, she delivers the same kind of material, courses and approach to education as she did in the private college setting. "That's what I strive to do. I'm not changing my style. That's my goal as a professor here."
"Lots of really good MCLA professors teach here," including those educated at Harvard, Princeton, Williams and Brandeis, Zoltanski said. "There's just an eclectic group of people here. It's pretty amazing. I'm always surprised when I meet faculty and find out where they were educated. The kids are really lucky."
Others who pay much more could receive the same type of education at MCLA for much less, Zoltanski said. "And it's not right. I don't believe that people should have to pay that kind of money to get a good, quality education."
At MCLA, she specializes in inequality. "It's a huge component of any class that I design and teach," Zoltanski said.
Her courses include those in criminology and legal courses that examine law and society. This semester, she is teaching a class on genocide, as well as another on social movement and how people bring about change in society.
"I think that kind of teaching and scholarship on social change and conflict, as well as conflict resolution, is going to contribute to both the departmental offerings as well as broadening students' awareness of some of what's going on out there in the world," she said.
"The other thing I think is important for me as a teacher at MCLA has to do with that a good number of students are first-generation college students. One of my goals in teaching is raising their awareness about some issues that I think are important for them to know about. This includes helping them to develop the confidence to realize they can make a difference in the world. I want them to learn that their voice counts and their voice can really matter.
"There are a lot of really excellent students here," she continued.
In the next year or so, Zoltanski will offer a class on women and war. Looking ahead, she also wants to develop a class on happiness.
"In doing so, I think a component of that class will include looking at anger and conflict resolution," she explained. "I'd like somewhere in a class to include some really practical conflict resolution and techniques for students. I don't think they get anywhere else, and it's an important skill for people to learn."