Activism While Teaching


Hephzibah Strmic-Pawl was not always expected to become a sociology professor. According to Strmic-Pawl’s family, the Manhattanville College Assistant Professor of Sociology’s decision to become an educator was totally unexpected.

“My family was like, ‘where did she come from,'” said Strmic-Pawl.

Despite being an educator, Strmic-Pawl has found a passion for activism.

If you were to walk into her office, you might notice that social activism is not only what she considers to be an occupation, but a significant part of her life.

Strmic-Pawl’s shelves are overfilled with sociology books, as well as books on equality and civil rights. There are a number of activism posters, which certainly bring her personality to the room.

Professor Strmic-Pawl, who is also known as Professor S.P., was born in Chicago, Illinois. She grew up in a moderately numbered family, having two brothers. Her father was a self-employed carpenter, while her mother was a high school English teacher.

While Strmic-Pawl is known for her knowledge of sociology, she is also open and honest about her personal life. She mentioned that her brothers were previously involved in gang activity, which resulted in them both being imprisoned.

“People are much more than what they do,” said the professor.

According to her, growing up in the inner city and having to deal with her brothers going to jail taught her that people are not defined by the situations they end up in.

“I feel a deep surge of what’s right and what’s wrong,” said Strmic-Pawl.

The professor also stated that no one should live comfortably while other people live through despair, poverty and oppression.

Strmic-Pawl also went on to speak about her own education. She said that she is shocked to learn that she hated school and never really even considered going to college.

“Several times my life could’ve gone a different way,” said Strmic-Pawl. “I had bad experiences as a student myself.”

She said that had it not been for her friends and family, she might have considered dropping out of school totally.

Currently, Professor Strmic-Pawl holds a doctorate degree and has found what she loves doing. She is also the Chairwoman of a Southern Sociology Society, Editor of Humanity & Society, a sociology journal, and she is currently working on a book, respectively.

Aside from her negative experiences, the professor also discussed her beliefs on the current state of education. According to her, the educational system in the United States needs to change. She mentioned that standardized testing is one area of the educational system that should end.

“We have to go back to a liberal arts education,” said Strmic-Pawl. “Read what interests you, find what you like to do.” As one of her undergraduate professors once told her and what she now tells her students is, “you have something to offer the world.”