Department of Anthropology

Chris Kirk Voted One of The Alcalde's Texas 10

Fri, March 8, 2013
Chris Kirk Voted One of The Alcalde's Texas 10
Kirk (center) with Associate Professor Miguel Ferguson and Senior Lecturer Ruth Buskirk

Nominated by alumni, these professors are among the best and most inspiring on the Forty Acres.

“Are you ready to have your mind blown?”

That’s how Chris Kirk, BA ’95, begins a few of the lectures in his Introduction to Physical Anthropology course each semester.  Some topics, like primate infanticide—when male primates kill infants in order to secure mating opportunities—can always be depended on to make even the most uninterested student perk up. “It’s one of those moments where people’s horror at the topic kind of creates an opening,” he says.

Kirk believes that students respond to enthusiasm more than anything else, and his own is never in short supply.  He tends to wander around the room as he lectures, and during our phone call he confesses that he’s pacing back and forth in his living room. “I can’t stay put,” Kirk says. “If I don’t fall off of the dais at least once a semester, I know I’m not moving around enough.”

As he’s teaching, Kirk constantly scans the room for signs of life. “Students let you know if they’re not getting it—just look at their faces. Are you losing them? They aren’t going to stand up and say, ‘Well I don’t understand!’ or ‘This really isn’t that interesting to me!’ but they might as well if you are really attending to all the signals they’re sending you.”

Earlier in the day, Kirk had been corresponding with a former student now teaching anthropology at Duke University, where Kirk completed his PhD. “Nothing pleases me more than when a great undergrad gets so interested that they end up as one of your colleagues. I’m just at the point in my career when I’m starting to see this happening—10 years down the line—and I’m perfectly giddy with that outcome.” —Dorothy Guerrero

For the full Alcalde article and list of professors go here.

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