“We have the ability to build relationships because of the atmosphere on campus,” Sara Schiavoni said. “Professors are accessible …” and students have the opportunity to build connections.
Schiavoni is an adjunct professor in the political science department. She demonstrates her dedication to her students and her passion for political science through her ability to go above and beyond the role of a professor and make personal connections with students, faculty and staff.
Schiavoni began her career at JCU in 2003 after moving to Cleveland from Columbus, and said that she immediately fell in love with the University. John Carroll’s strong focus on academics as well as the relationships she could form with students were what drew her here, she added.
Personal connections have always played a major role in why Schiavoni loves being at JCU. When she began teaching at Carroll, Schiavoni said she met her mentor Lauren Bowen, who was also working here at the time. Sixteen years later, Schiavoni still finds those personal connections to be important. Schiavoni acts as a mentor to many students, especially through helping them conduct research and work on their own projects.
Schiavoni has been actively involved with the Center for Service and Social Action and the immersion program, which she said have been powerful experiences for her. She has had many profound moments on her three immersion trips to the U.S./Mexico Border.
“[The immersions] impacted me because I understood John Carroll’s mission of being men and women for and with others much more deeply,” Schiavoni said. “The students’ appreciation for the experience was amazing to me. It fundamentally changed how I thought about John Carroll students; they are unbelievably empathetic and motivated to understand central political questions that are relevant today.”
In the classroom, Schiavoni encourages her students to consider all aspects of the material they are learning. She said she strives to be a role model, especially for the young women in her classes. She works to inspire and challenge them to be brave, think deeply and analyze their own beliefs and approaches to the world around them. In 2017, Schiavoni won the Outstanding Part Time Faculty Award for the College of Arts and Sciences.
“The fact that I won the [Outstanding] Part Time Faculty Award the first year it was offered is one of my most proud moments,” Schiavoni said. “Mindy Peden, the chair of the department, asked prior students to write in, and the packet of letters she gave to me afterwards that came from past students was just so special.”
Schiavoni teaches classes on American politics and the United States’ court system. With John Carroll’s integration of the core, Schiavoni is also teaching a linked course between wrongful convictions and forensic biochemistry. This linked course has had a meaningful impact on her own personal research and career path. She is now more interested in criminal justice reform and has allocated much of her time to focus on studying it.
Additionally, Schiavoni said she has established lifelong friendships with other professors within the political science department, among others.
“One of my favorite things is to open my door and talk across the hall to Colin Swearingen, who is our resident Congressional/executive expert, and debate with him about which institution of the American politics is more important — courts or Congress,” she said. “We talk about current events and bounce ideas off each other. Having that close relationship with a colleague is really important.”
Schiavoni said she loves the connections she makes with other faculty and staff on campus. She has gotten to know the ladies at Einstein’s Bagels well throughout her time here. She has also enjoyed mingling with people who are not necessarily academics or political scientists, but who have become friends that she sees and spends time with on a daily basis.
Schiavoni said her favorite part of Carroll is the relationships she has established with students in the classroom and that have continued into their adult lives. She has sent baby gifts to former students with whom she has continued to stay in touch, as well as cards for their law school and graduate school graduations. These relationships are incredibly important to her as she continues to teach, research her passions and inspire students.