Mapping classroom success: Kent Kirkby

Assistant professor Kent Kirkby, geology and geophysics, notes that “some [students] have struggled just to pass, while others earned Fulbright and Rhodes Scholarships, and I could not tell you which have impressed me more. In the end, I have learned far more from them than I have taught them, and it is an honor to have shared a classroom with these students.”

Kent Kirkby is a professor who goes above and beyond when teaching his geology courses. His passion for science, as well as his desire to teach, has drawn praise from faculty and students alike across campus. “Kent embodies all the rare and wonderful characteristics one hopes to find in a professor,” a former student says. “Had I taken my first class from him during my freshman or sophomore year, I would have pursued a geology minor.”

Along with being an outstanding professor, Kirkby has made great strides in science. With a colleague, Kirkby pioneered the use of the Geowall--a 3-D, stereo projection mapping system that can be used in the classroom to help earth science students master the critical skills of visualizing and interpreting spatial relationships--and has been part of an initiative to build the systems at a number of research and education institutions. In addition, Kirkby has revised and created intriguing labs for his students.

Kirkby captures student interest through storytelling and has the ability to create a comfortable environment where students are never scolded for asking “Why?” Another former student says, “Making geology interesting and relevant to a hectic world is a gift; I can honestly say I wouldn’t be so interested in the subject today if not for Kirkby.”

From the advances he’s made within the U’s science programs, to his gift for bringing life and intrigue into his classroom, all would agree with a former student who states, “He is beyond any doubt, an outstanding educator and worthy of this award.”