Beyond the Classroom

For IUPUI professor Trevor Potts, learning does not stop at the classroom door.

As a long-term communications professor as well as the director of internships in the Department of Communications at IUPUI, Potts has been able to impact hundreds of students in a way far more substantial than teaching vocabulary out of a textbook. Adopting a unique approach to teaching, he often takes students out of the classroom to engage with each other and the community. In his classroom, ‘don’t let schooling interfere with your education’ is the mantra.

“I liked the ability to be able to empower students,” Potts said. “I want to help my students get as far as they want to go, in whichever direction they want to go.”

But although Potts is a professor by day, he is a rocker by night.

As the lead man in local rock band Sugar Moon Rabbit and vocalist in Poppa Warfleigh’s Funk Revival, Potts’ lyrics often tackle the same issues that he discusses with his students.

“I think one of the worst things to happen in music in the last 20 to 30 years is the dilution of position and stance and politics,” Potts said. “I think it is important to keep that spirit alive.”

Not only has Potts kept it alive, he has done it well. Recently, Sugar Moon Rabbit was the first runner-up for local rock bands in NUVO’s Best of Indianapolis. Over the past decade, he has performed in hundreds of shows with the band in and around the Indianapolis area, establishing a name for himself with his dynamic, engaging stage presence and powerful voice.

On stage, Potts uses that voice to not only sing about serious issues ranging from the upcoming election to prejudice, he and his bands also use their talent to give back to the community.

“We've played several charity/benefit shows over the years,” Sugar Moon Rabbit band member Chris Sarber said. “Notably, BeneFlint, which was held to raise money and water for Flint, Michigan, and Night of the Comet, which benefits victims of domestic abuse.”

For Potts, using his voice in his classroom and on stage has allowed him to open important dialogues in the community as well as inspire others.

“The most important thing is to stand for something. What you stand for may change, but you can’t go through life as a zombie, without standing for something,” Potts said. “My goal as a teacher and as a musician is to encourage critical thought. I want to go where the learning is, and encourage thought with a purpose to it.”

His students agree.

“Trevor recognizes the damage that over-structuring a course can do. He often prompts us to ‘go where the learning is’,” sophomore communications major Dustin Branum said. “This is a lesson that has rooted itself deep within many of us. Because of the value he places on each of our individual voices, we are more empowered to seek our own truth despite the resistance we may get from others, including traditional academia.”

As for the future, Potts isn’t completely sure on where he will end up. But for here, for now, he is following his passion.

“I love teaching. I would always like to teach in some capacity, and play music in some capacity,” Potts said. “But if I had an opportunity in my retirement years to be in a political Irish punk band that travelled from Irish fest to Irish fest, and my wife and son would be able to be with us on tour, that would be my dream.”