MSU Sociology assistant professor named College of Social Science Outstanding Teacher

March 1, 2024 - Karessa Weir

MSU Sociology Assistant Professor Philip J. "PJ" Pettis's passion for teaching as well has his ability to support and empower his students led MSU Sociology Chair Carla Pfeffer to nominate Pettis for the 2024 College of Social Science Outstanding Teaching Award. Dr. Pettis was announced as this year's winner of the award.

PJ Pettis“PJ  shows up for his students and he shows up in so many different ways and places, and not only when it’s easy or part of his job. PJ teaches his students, and does so remarkably well,” Pfeffer wrote. “His course evaluation scores are consistently outstanding, despite the fact that he is often teaching courses with which many of our students struggle (e.g.,statistics).”

“His commitment to helping our diverse community of students experience a deep sense of personal belonging in a huge university, while also providing an academically rigorous, applied, and interdisciplinary education, are a testimony to his pedagogy of social science education for personal and social transformation,” Pfeffer wrote.

Pfeffer’s nomination was bolstered by a number of students who described Pettis as a passionate and dedicated teacher who genuinely cares about his students.

“I am a first-generation Latino college student. It is incredibly difficult to connectwith professors and feel that they care about my success at a PWI [primarily white institution] in a large college (Social Science). Professor Pettis is the first professor I have had in my entire college career who has shown interest in my success and future. He values my voice and contributions in a way no other professor has. I feel like, as a student, I matter. My work and my presence here feel valued,” wrote Logan Treviño-Fica.
“In the days that followed [Feb. 13th], he hosted a group of his entrusted students at his home, giving us the opportunity to bond and support each other through such difficult times. I believe that the best shine brightest in the worst of times, and Professor Pettis was a luminary figure to myself and others during that time,” wrote Thomas Dolinka.
Sociology and Chicano/Latino Studies dual doctoral student Teresa Rivera wrote:

“To say PJ is a rigorous teacher would not only be a poor understatement of his approach but an incomplete one at that. I say this because PJ’s passion and rigor for teaching about medical sociology, the sociology of mental health, and the intersectional identities of sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, gender, age, and is only matched by his genuine care for his students. PJ has a notable talent for providing an academically and personally inclusive and welcoming space for students.”

Pettis will be presented with the award and deliver a brief keynote address at spring commencement April 27.

“I am humbled. Thank you to my colleagues who have taken the time to share syllabi with me and those who have offered effective teaching strategies. I am so appreciative of all my students and colleagues who made working at MSU such an incredible experience,” Pettis said.

Pettis joined the department in 2022 after earning a PhD in Sociology from Vanderbilt University. In addition to his doctoral degree, Pettis is a licensed social worker. His research examines how sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, gender and age intersect to shape social, economic, and health inequalities. He is a member of the consortium for Sexual and Gender Minority Health.