Meet new professor Ken Brinson
September 25, 2013
Ken Brinson, who this year joined the faculty as assistant professor of educational administration, invites his students to approach education as a font of questions. His inquisitiveness has led him around the globe, inspiring work with the International Faculty of Ramkhamhaeng University in Bangkok, Thailand and the Board of Advisers for the University of Technology in Jamaica, as well as on journeys through 45 countries. Brinson unites history and English, music and theater, to furnish his students’ education with a global perspective.
What aspect of the Lewis and Clark Community has made the biggest impression on you?
This will be my 17th year as a professor, but I’ve only worked at large universities before. The biggest impression Lewis & Clark has made on me is how welcoming and friendly everyone is. None of the people fit a type. Everybody’s so unique and different.
In your extensive travels, what perspectives have you gleaned that inform your research and teaching?
Traveling has given me an expanded way of thinking about how we solve problems. There’s not one way — the American way — of doing things. That said, I’ve been in 45 countries now what I see everywhere is the commonality of people. We are more alike than we are different.
What about trips closer to home? Have you been exploring Portland?
I was impressed by Papa Haydn in Southeast Portland for its fantastic rizzotto and great atmosphere. I also have a weakness for Voodoo Doughnuts. I enjoy the farmers’ market at Woodstock, and I’ve climbed Multnomah Falls twice already.
Before taking up graduate faculty positions, you worked as a middle and high school teacher, coach, and administrator. What elements connect teaching at the middle and high school level to graduate level instruction?
A common thread is a real desire to see people achieve their goals. If you can be the smallest part of that, you’ve done your job. For teachers — you have to love your students. If you don’t, let’s find something else for you to do.
Can you describe the teaching and administrative work you do for schools in Thailand and Jamaica?
Thailand is a good example. I was there for five weeks this summer, teaching undergraduate and master’s students. I dedicate a month every year to Thailand, where last year I had 67 students from 17 different countries. The graduate programs there are on the weekends and the Undergraduates meet all week. Everything is conducted in English. I even teach an undergraduate class on Shakespeare.
What’s your favorite Shakespearean play?
In Thailand this year I’m teaching Romeo and Juliet and the sonnets, but I have an abiding love of Hamlet. It’s about trying to figure out who you are and what you do in the world. Hamlet’s soliloquy asks all the age-old questions.
How do you bring together your diverse academic interests?
I’ve studied music, acting and directing, history, and English. Teaching jelled all these interests together. Being in a classroom is performance art. I tell students, “You have work and go to class, so you might not have the time to tie all these things together. That’s what I do — you can come to me.”
What teaching method do you find to be most engaging?
I prefer the Socratic method. You ask the questions, get a variety of answers, and come to a consensus. I don’t want students who memorize information. They need to use what they’re learning.