In teaching Geography and Development Studies, I want students to understand themselves – their histories, their knowledges, their practices – in relation to their communities and the world. I show how histories of expropriation, slavery and colonialism have produced and continue to produce our contemporary geographies of power and difference. I believe students learn best when they are analyzing social theory and grounding such theory in practice. I share what I have learned through my life and work, and encourage students to draw on their experiences to transform the material we read. In so doing, I aim to equip students with the analytical tools necessary for responding to urgent global challenges.
I have honed my teaching skills through my work with diverse students across multiple disciplines and institutions for over ten years. I am currently teaching graduate students at the University of the Western Cape, one of South Africa's historically Black universities. I previously taught community college transfer, first generation, international and mature students at the University of California, Berkeley. I also served as Program Coordinator for a summer study abroad program to South Africa with Arizona State University and taught Reading Improvement to English Language Learners at a public high school in Arizona.
My courses draw on work from critical human geography, political economy, critical race theory, and postcolonial/feminist science and technology studies. I designed and taught Nature, Culture, Power; Global Environmental Politics; and Critical Geographies of Nature and Land as the instructor of record. I also worked as a graduate student instructor for Introduction to Geography, Introduction to Development Studies, and Development in History and Theory.
What Students Say
ONLINE TEACHING DURING COVID (BERKELEY):
"The best thing about the course was relevancy during the pandemic and Black Lives Matter. It focused on current topics and breaking down how they have come to be established. This was eye opening to say the least. I would definitely recommend this class to other students. Erin was fantastic and I hope to take more of her classes, very precise and articulated, challenged me beyond expression." -- Global Environmental Politics, Summer 2020
"Erin was very engaged with all of her students, but in a gentle way. I really appreciate her teaching style, her commitment, and her ability to make students feel heard. I am a DSP [Disability Student Program] Student and she was very helpful and timely with providing accommodations." -- Global Environmental Politics, Summer 2020
"The class setup was great. Recorded lectures and readings were interesting and set the stage for very engaging class discussions. Professor Torkelson was also wonderful about letting the discussion go freely between class members and providing thought provoking questions when it died down." -- Global Environmental Politics, Summer 2020
"The instructor was incredibly nice and mindful of COVID difficulties. The instructor clearly know the course and was constantly discussing how materials related to the course's topic and key points. The materials were from multiple places and discussed different time periods, allowing us to see the history of global environmental politics." -- Global Environmental Politics, Summer 2020
TRANSITION FROM FACE-TO-FACE TO ONLINE TEACHING DURING COVID (CAPE TOWN):
“I would like my lecturer to know that she made the learning experience more bearable. She was always in contact with the class. She never left us to our own devices. She loaded resources on Ikamva and would ask us to communicate with her if anything was wrong and if there was she would fix it immediately. She reached out to us on different platforms and mediums. She called us during office hours which was different an important for those of us without data [i.e. access to internet]. Speaking to your lecturer on the phone brought an element of closeness and that someone is there in terms of a support system. It makes a hard experience less lonely.” -- Critical Geographies of Nature and Land, Spring 2020
"The lecturer assisted students in exposing meanings in readings that may not have been apparent immediately, which pushed us to approach texts in different ways in order to uncover the meanings of texts ourselves. This benefited me in my other modules as well when looking at other texts, as I could see myself gradually improving with the way that I approach texts as the weeks went by. The lecturer was also very familiar with the use of online tools which helped when lockdown was implemented." -- Critical Geographies of Nature and Land, Spring 2020
FACE-TO-FACE TEACHING (BERKELEY):
"This was one of my favorite classes I have taken at Berkeley! The way the material was presented and how the whole course came together was VERY well done." -- Nature, Culture Power, Summer 2019
"The course was very interesting and thought provoking as it deconstructed the common misperceptions about natures and cultures, as well as explained the history behind many of the mundane, everyday things we encounter in our lives." -- Nature, Culture Power, Summer 2019
"Erin is amazingly helpful. I was consistently impressed by how I was supported by her, especially in essays. She taught me how to write!" -- Development in Theory and Practice, Spring 2014