Dr. Chris Kukk — Teaching Excellence Award
Enter any one of Associate Professor of Political Science Dr. Chris Kukk’s classes at WestConn, and you’ll find it’s anything but typical. Kukk doesn’t lecture off of last year’s notes or read out of a textbook. Instead, he uses his dynamic energy to engage students in debate and challenge them to think at a higher level.
“The greatest thing about teaching is the chance to read, analyze and discuss the issues of today with bright, young minds. It promotes critical thinking of those issues,” Kukk said. “And my ideal class is when someone asks me a question I don’t know the answer to — someone thought outside the box. Those are the days I’m walking on Cloud Nine.”
His teaching skills and devotion to education have earned Kukk, a Fulbright Scholar who has taught at Harvard and Boston College, the university’s Teaching Excellence Award, which will be presented at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 8, at the Faculty Recognition Ceremony in Warner Hall.
A graduate of the U.S. Army Military Intelligence School’s Counterintelligence Agent Program in Fort Huachuca, Ariz., Kukk earned a B.A. in Political Science from Boston University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa, before going on to earn an M.A. in American and International Politics and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Boston College.
To say Kukk teaches political science is only scratching the surface — he incorporates history, economics and culture, to name a few, to give students the bigger picture of the world they live in. “I touch on all that,” he said. “You have to — that’s what makes it come alive.”
A college professor for the better of 12 years, Kukk said that today’s classroom is especially exciting because of the different ways you can reach students, thanks to myriad technological advances.
In his junior-level “Nuclear Non-Proliferation” course, his students face off weekly with 25 students from the Geneva School of Diplomacy simulating non-proliferation treaty talks using videoconference equipment. His students literally bring what they’ve learned into the world, as each student represents a country — Israel, South Africa, North Korea, Iran, the United States, United Kingdom, China and France. After studying each article of the treaty, the students then argue their government’s position. “It’s an amazing experience for our students.”
Whether a 100-level or 400-level course, Kukk said the enthusiasm is always there — every year he changes courses to meet societal changes and student demands.
“It never gets boring. The students always change the dynamics. And I probably shouldn’t say this, but I would do this for free,” Kukk said. “The passion is contagious. The hardest thing is to get that passion going and when it does, it’s amazing and that’s what keeps me here.”