An expert on creating a better society

Dr. Spivey transformed her classroom into a center of critical thinking and open discussion

By Kimberly Yednock ('95)

While attending undergraduate classes at James Madison University, I was blessed with the opportunity to study under Dr. Sue Spivey, who was better known to her students and associates as "Suey". She could transform the classroom into a center of critical thinking and open expression. While an intimate group discussion involving anywhere from 30 to 100 students is not an easy task to accomplish, these discussions and lectures were life changing and enriching to me.

Her classes on race and ethnic relations and gender studies along with her social science courses featured the highest level of literature from a variety of critical writers, and her knowledge and scholarly study of these subjects added excitement to every class. Suey had the ability to build trust among her students who then through their own developing critical thinking could address the social problems of the day. I learned so much about people with very different lifestyles from my own; these were the kinds of things I would not have learned from a textbook. We discussed real situations and studied many different viewpoints surrounding each situation, and honest answers were encouraged and supported in the classroom. Every class was like sneaking away to a rendezvous, anxiously anticipating the material we would cover next. By the time I graduated, I think I had taken just about every class she offered.

Suey challenges students to look at every situation in a new and unique way, all your beliefs and all your traditions, not just by the way she teaches but also the way she lives. She re-creates everything you have ever learned by unveiling the fact that your experience of reality is yours alone. She was always available for discussion after hours and had a great sense of humor. She encourages students to search out information and to address everyday problems. The first time I registered for one of her classes a friend said, "Oh Suey, you’re going to work harder for her than any other teacher but you are going to love it." This was a very accurate observation. Through her expertise, nurturing and frankness, Suey opened a world of lifelong learning for me. I actively seek organizations to help with, essays to read and continually use her choice of writings to teach those around me about the dynamics of society and social consciousness. Every time I read a great new essay or see a situation brewing, I always wonder how Suey would encourage me to approach and help society be better for all. When you study people, you use the information everyday for the rest of your life; it is vital to living well. Thank you Suey for changing my life.

Sue Spivey
Department of Justice Studies
(540) 568–6964
spiveyse@jmu.edu