RUSSELL FIELDING geographer
He never stops teaching.
—a colleague asked to evaluate my approach to pedagogy
My teaching at Coastal Carolina University is mainly in support of the Sustainability and Coastal Resilience major and the Honors program. I also have experience teaching courses on a variety of topics within geography and the environmental sciences more broadly including climate change, environmental policy, geology and physical geography, GIS, human-environment interactions, ocean ecosystems, and natural hazards. I enjoy mentoring student research and do so both as part of coursework and separately as undergraduate and graduate thesis projects.
At CCU I regularly teach the following courses:
HONR 105: Critical Methods of Inquiry, "Supersession"
This class analyzes the development of scientific theories, from their earliest inception (and often wrong ideas) to their current, more accurate present states. In doing so, we see how rational thinking and the scientific method serve to help us constantly revise our current knowledge, as we self-correct our way toward a constantly better understanding of the world.
HONR 202: Great Themes, Perspectives in the Social Sciences, "People and Oceans"
This class investigates humanity's long and complex relationship with the ocean through such topics as beach tourism, fisheries, marine pollution and its remediation, maritime exploration, seaborne transportation, and piracy. Through this survey, we learn how important the ocean has been to human history, how deeply we rely upon its resources and ecosystem services today, and what we can do to protect it.
HONR 304: Special Topics in Environmental Studies, "Charismatic Megafauna"
This class explores concepts related to biogeography, conservation, and human-nonhuman interactions by studying a selection of big (mega-), lovable (charismatic) animals (fauna) such as big cats, elephants, great apes, sharks, and whales. Students learn about interactions between humans and the other large animals with whom we share this planet and how interspecies relationships might be improved for everyone's benefit.
SUST 301: Environmental and Coastal Resilience
This class studies concepts related to the geological and oceanographic components of coastal landscapes and seascapes, the complex webs of life found that make up coastal ecosystems, and human history of living in—and using resources from—coastal environments. Students gain and understanding of the dynamic processes that occur along the world's coastlines involving land, sea, plants, animals, and humans.
I use a teaching style that conveys passion, expertise, encouragement, and inclusion. In my teaching evaluations for just one course during the 2018-19 year, the words “passionate” and “enthusiastic” were used 23 times by the 38 students enrolled. While it is fulfilling to be viewed as a passionate teacher, I am more interested in being an effective teacher. Student learning is the single most important outcome and evaluations of my teaching, both from students and from my faculty colleagues, bear witness to its effectiveness in this regard. One colleague/observer remarked that I am “exactly the kind of teacher that engages students, keeps them interested, and opens the world of environmental studies to them.”
I have developed two field-based courses, one in Iceland (in the photo above, discussing with students the conservation implications of a legend stating that the mountain we just descended, Helgafell, can grant wishes) and another in New Zealand, which I have taught four times each. Both courses focus on natural hazard mitigation and natural resource conservation. For each, an on-campus prefatory seminar introduces students to the concepts and relevant literature for the field program and allows them time to develop plans for individual projects. Following this preparation, I lead students on an approximately two-week study tour of the relevant country, both of which I have traveled in extensively. The field program involves structured lessons and site visits, meetings with local experts, and time for students to pursue the independent projects they proposed during the seminar. These experiences serve to etch memories, both of the travel and of the course material, in students’ minds and have led more than one of these programs’ alumni to refer to them as “the class of a lifetime.”