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Excellence in Teaching 2023 – David Chunyu

August 24, 2023

After earning undergraduate degrees in his native China, David Chunyu taught courses in social statistics and research methods as a sociology Ph.D. student at the University at Albany in New York. He joined the UW-Stevens Point Department of Sociology and Social Work in 2012 after completing post-doctoral research at Brown University. He now routinely teaches students at UWSP the same required sociological data methods he learned in statistics courses.   

Associate Professor David Chunyu, sociology, won a 2023 Excellence in Teaching Award.

Chunyu joked that beginning students in the major might even have “dreadful” feelings about taking the sociological statistics course.  

“I try to break the perception and feelings about this course. I have a reputation for teaching statistics in an enjoyable way!” Chunyu said. 

He has taken that trepidation as a personal challenge, determined to engage students in case studies and ways to apply statistics in the real world. Chunyu strives to keep his course materials relevant and meaningful.    
 
“I always seek to engage with the latest scholarship to inform the course content, bring in expert guest speakers, hold students to high standards, assess them with rigor, challenge them with real-world problems,” he said. 

Former student Anita Haldes, ‘22, sociology and business administration, recalls how Chunyu kept encouraging questions, trying to engage students in a topic they assumed would be one-sided and not as interactive.  She explained that his courses were a motivating factor for completing a major in sociology. 

“I enjoyed his different teaching techniques, his desire to pass his passion of his courses onto his students, and that he would share about his past life in China, his culture, and his family,” she said. 

Chunyu involves students, including Haldes, in socially oriented research studies. Chunyu has been a mentor for students presenting in the College of Letters and Science Undergraduate Research Symposium since 2014. What students often learn is that people don’t always make the easiest subjects for research and that research will open up many unanswered questions.   

In her nominating letter for Chunyu’s University Teaching award, professor Dorothy DeBoer, a colleague in the Department of Sociology and Social Work, said his strength is in how Dr. Chunyu builds a welcoming and interactive learning environment where students are heard and respected. He works to convey the importance of the course material to students and how it’s useful for their personal and professional experiences.   

Associate Professor Chunyu in the classroom.
Associate Professor Chunyu in the classroom.

“His enthusiasm for learning leads his students to want to grasp the information and do something with it. I have seen his students become increasingly engaged as the semester progresses with the courses and course material because of his excitement and engagement,” said DeBoer. 

“Enthusiastic” is a frequent description students give when they submit evaluations of his classes. Chunyu is lauded for his respectful, patient, and approachable teaching style. He uses peer reviews and small group experiments, and various presentations to incorporate strategies for teaching which help convey the material. 

This fall he will resume SOC 380 Sociology of Immigration, teaching with about a third of the class outside of the major.  Often there is a wide range of sociology interests and Chunyu said, he often has chances to share and learn from students such as when he leads the Race and Ethnicity course discussions on ethnic relations and inequalities.  

“I like to challenge them with evidence, but I appreciate learning from students who can have very different views on race experiences,” said Chunyu. 

His peers in the department have been extremely supportive colleagues. There’s been a long legacy of University Award recipients from among the sociology and social work faculty who are equally passionate about student success, he said.  

‘’I am privileged to be in this department, and we learn from each other,” said Chunyu. “We keep improving pedagogy in this supportive environment. I am still learning, and I take joy in doing so.”