Best Professor – Dr. David Briscoe
David Briscoe, an accomplished professor in UALR’s Sociology and Anthropology department, is a man who adores teaching. His degrees and books tower above his desk in piles, yet he sits in his chair waiting to hear not just academic ideas, but insight into the lives of his students.
Perhaps the reason behind his receipt of Best Faculty Award is because Briscoe — or David, as he prefers — doesn’t believe in the traditional student-teacher barrier.
“If I have a following of students at the university, it is because I am very down-to-earth and plain with my students,” he said. “I do not require that my students address me as Mr. Briscoe or Dr. Briscoe. … That way, it helps to break down the barriers that are set up structurally by society.”
This mindset filters into the teaching atmosphere of all of Briscoe’s work. Of four classes he’s teaching this fall, Introduction to Sociology is Briscoe’s favorite and an old standby. He said the course’s expansive nature allows him to guide students in finding different educational pursuits within the discipline itself.
“It gives me the opportunity to really send the message home to those who are attending those classes,” he said. “I put so much energy into teaching my classes that when I’m through with my classes, I’m tired.”
The youngest of nine siblings, Briscoe was born and raised on a farm in Mars Hill, N.C., a small community that emphasized faith and work as staples of a good life. His parents also stressed this philosophy in raising their children, and Briscoe believes they influenced his want and need for success.
“They instilled in each of us really neat values pertaining to work ethic, pertaining to faith and pertaining to service,” he said. “Mom and Dad were terrific parents. Whatever I have achieved in my life, I would freely give to them.”
After graduating from Mars Hill High School, he relocated to Little Rock and began pursuing a four-year sociology degree at UALR. He went on to receive a master’s in criminal justice before earning his doctorate in family sociology from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. After teaching in SIU’s black history program, he journeyed back to UALR in 1992 and became the first African American to be promoted to full professor.
Briscoe said that he is a man of strong faith, and it certainly shows. In addition to his secular education, he also completed seminary coursework at Harvard and Princeton, which resulted in three books, all of which pertain to religious philosophy. But one of the most applicable parts of his faith, he believes, is treating others as they like to be treated.
“If you were in one of my classes, or if you were just a staff person or faculty person, I still feel I have a certain responsibility to behave in an appropriate way toward you,” he said. “I am commanded to love that person, thanks to my faith. It’s like scripture says: ‘hate the sin, love the sinner.’”
Faith and academia aside, Briscoe’s other obligations can be found in organizations on and off campus. He serves at the first African-American president of UALR’s chapter of the Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society, an interdisciplinary program boasting 30,000 members nationwide. He was also chosen to serve as a member of the National Executive Board for Boy Scouts of America, an organization he’s worked with for many years. Although these are some of his greatest accomplishments, Briscoe said that his best work is still done with students.
“I am very passionate about what I teach,” he said. “I am also a student. I’m a student of society and a student of law, and I really believe what I do.”
Briscoe lives in Little Rock with his wife and two daughters. He will teach Intro to Sociology in addition to three upper-level courses in spring 2013.