Entering a classroom filled to its capacity, Professor Charles Levy begins the lecture by posing the question, “What is sociology?” to his students.
After a brief pause he dives into the day’s lesson without missing a beat.
Levy began his professional career 20 years ago, of which the last 13 were spent at Pierce College.
“I began [teaching at Pierce] in 2003 and I really love it here,” Levy said. “The students are responsive and have a lot to say. It’s been a great experience.”
While Levy’s enthusiasm for the field appears second nature, it was by chance alone that he stumbled upon sociology.
It was his first year of college at San Diego State University. Levy stood alongside 40 to 50 other students who were trying to crash the same psychology course when someone told him of an open sociology class downstairs.
Though he knew nothing about about subject Levy went, driven by mild curiosity and the need to fill his unit requirements.
“It was my first sociology class and it ruined it all because that was where I got stuck,” Levy mused. “I couldn’t get out of it.”
There Levy met Professor Nicos Mouratides, a 70-year-old concentration camp survivor “who paced the lecture hall while shouting at the top of his lungs” about Marxism and sociological philosophies.
“It was like one of those coming to faith moments,” Levy said. “I knew in that moment what I wanted to be.”
Structuring his teaching model around that of Mouratides, Levy encourages class debates and will often ask the hard open ended questions to stir discussions. While some would see his method as unconventional, Levy feels it is a way of enlightening students.
Professor Melissa Gulick is an instructor of philosophy and critical thinking at Pierce College. As a member of the same department as Levy, she can see his enthusiasm for his work.
“Students walk away falling in love with sociology and that’s something I can say with confidence [about Levy],” Gulick said.
Levy’s “passion” and “charisma” are traits that are seen not only by fellow colleagues but by his students as well. Freshmens Roy Armin and Mario Patrick are taking Levy for the first time.
“[Levy’s] super funny and quirky. He makes a lot of jokes,” Armin said. Due to his love for teen films such as Mean Girls, “He has a teenage girl living inside him.”
For Patrick, the appeal of seeing the society in a new light was grounds for seeing the course through to the end.
“The fact that he said that it would change our perspective of the world is why I stayed in the class,” Patrick said.
Professor Robert Wonser, who has known and worked with Levy since 2008, believes it is Levy’s witty personality and devotion to the field that sets him apart the rest.
“When I first met him I noticed he was serious but dedicated and that’s true now but [he] also jokes around,” Wonser said. “I am honored that Professor Levy and I are able to teach in the profession.”
Gulick spoke of how fortunate it is to share an office with philosophers and sociologists since it allows for lively discussions.
“Professor Levy’s passion for sociology has deepened my interest in and respect for the discipline,” Gulick said.
In one year he taught 14 courses in one semester—three online and 11 at different campuses.
“It would literally be me driving from school, to school, to school to school.” Levy said.
After receiving his first bachelor’s degree in sociology, he began to travel the world. He’s lived and visited places such as Czechoslovakia; now the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Apart from eastern Europe Levy has explored Amsterdam, Istanbul, Spain, and Morocco. Some trips coincided with the outbreak of the Gulf War.
“I have spent a lot of my life throwing myself into situations that would purposely make me uncomfortable so I could experience life,” Levy said.
After writing for a paper called the Praguenosis in Prague, he returned to the states. For over a year he worked as a chef for a restaurant in San Francisco, California. Levy later went to Kent University, Ohio where he received his first master’s degree.
A year a half later Levy transferred to University of California, Riverside obtaining his second master’s degree and an ABD or “All but Dissertation.”
For all the achievements Levy has garnered, none compare to the day he became a parent.
Though Levy jokingly claims that he “wanted him (his son) to be my clone when he was born” the professor takes his role as a father to heart.
“He’s the most important thing in my life, I live for that kid.” Levy said of his son, Jacob Levy. “He’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Levy, a proud member of the Star Wars fanbase, has attended countless conventions such as Comic Con among others. Jacob, 20, would join him on many of these trips which acted as a father-son bonding experience.
As Jacob grew from child to young adult the excursions became less frequent.
“As he [Levy’s son] got older and went off to college the interest faded away. So I’m still the nerd,” Levy chuckled.
Levy couples his “nerd” side with various other experiences to round out his teaching technique.
Having traversed the globe more than once, Levy has encountered a vast array of cultures that differ from the American standard.
These experiences are then harnessed as questions he poses to students.
Often, students tell him that they have gotten into arguments with family or friends because of what they learned during his lectures.
Levy sees it as a sign that his lessons are getting his students to question the things in their lives that they wouldn’t have questioned before.
One of Levy’s favorite things to teach in class is the concept of the “micro sociological sabotage” by Peter Berger.
“It’s basically the idea of planting bombs and watching them blow up,” Levy said. “I’ve always liked planting those bombs, it’s always been my nature. I guess I can say that’s why sociology was a good fit.”