Dr. Steven Kelts is a political scientist and entrepreneur with over 19 years of teaching experience. He lectures in politics at the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University and he also teaches Campus students!
Dr. Kelts has won several teaching accolades, making him a multi-decorated educator. His teaching career includes an impressive range of top schools, including Northwestern University, Stanford University, and Washington University. He has won the Bender Teaching Award and the Nashman Award for Faculty Member of the Year, and he’s even a member of the George Washington University Academy of Distinguished Teachers.
What Brought Dr. Kelts to Campus?
His tried-and-tested passion for teaching. “Campus is focused on bringing together human relationships with the best technology available, all to enhance student learning. Those are three goals I believe in,” he told Campus in an interview.
“All learning begins with human connection and inspiration. Technology can help us bridge time and space and make even more of those connections, find more inspiration, experience more, learn more.”
Dr. Kelts teaches American politics and professional development in the Campus program, and he hopes that students can hone their critical thinking skills throughout his course. Critical thinking, after all, is one of today’s most in-demand workplace skills!
“I never want students to just tell me what a book says or what I lectured about,” he explained. “I want them to find evidence that engages with a book, or makes a more nuanced point, or refutes a statistic or argument I used in a lecture. When my students do that, they’re driving knowledge forward, not accepting it as it exists right now.”
On Teaching and Mentoring
By simply observing the way Dr. Kelts teaches political science in other programs, one can see his genuine passion for pursuing knowledge. According to him, teaching this subject is his way of contributing to the American political space.
“I still believe, fundamentally, that increased knowledge of the American political system is necessary to support the system. Teaching brings me all sorts of joy, and I could give you other reasons for it as well. But at the highest level, I’m trying to do my part to maintain the American system that I love.”
Outside of politics, he also wants to help his students develop applicable skills that’ll shape them for other aspects of their lives.
“I focus on skills that transfer out of political science: writing skills that will help them in other classes, data analysis skills that feed into in-demand jobs, argumentation skills that could lead them to law school, and so much more. My aim is to help students leave my classroom as better versions of the people they want to be.”
It’s no surprise that Dr. Kelts dedicates time to mentoring students who may not even be in his own classroom. He founded Kalos Academy in 2020, where he mentors first-generation and low-income college students as they navigate the milestone of transitioning to college.
The near-peer mentoring group also supports students who come from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds, guiding them as they go through college social life, classroom instruction in higher education institutions, and sometimes daunting institutional processes like financial aid.
Good thing Dr. Kelts can do what he loves as part of his everyday job, too!
“Good teaching is mentoring anyway. You can’t do one well without the other,” Dr. Kelts shared.
“Some teachers want to talk to a class and have them repeat a lesson or idea verbatim, but once you get past lecturing and start being concerned with how your words, the exercises you assign, and the goals you set are transforming the students’ futures… Well, now you essentially are mentoring. You’re working with students so that they see how they will need certain skills for their future, which means talking with them about their future. A good teacher is a mentor.”
Interests Outside of Politics
Something that may come as a surprise is that while political science classes are what made him who he is today, Dr. Kelts would also include Japanese History as one of his favorite classes in college, too. Why? Because it offered something more than knowledge and skill-building. It energized him.
“It served no other purpose in my life than to make me fascinated with Japan and inspire me to travel there after college. College should train us and give us skills, but it should also inspire us and leave us in awe. Japanese History did that for me.”
And we can’t forget about his eye for tech. Currently, Dr. Kelts is conducting research on tech corporations and how they’re set up to design ethical – or unethical – machine learning algorithms. When we asked what he would be doing if he weren’t teaching college students, he’d still be teaching!
“My interest in values (political and ethical) is so strong that I’d be working inside corporations teaching responsible business practices and possibly AI ethics.”
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