Whether in a classroom, sharing advice over lunch, or quietly leading by example, educators help us strive for a better life. Our college is filled with teachers, mentors, and colleagues who guide us toward lifelong learning. We salute those who show us the way forward.
PEOPLE: THE HEART OF THE CVM
Student tests papered a large table in a conference room near Dr. Christina Clarkson’s office in the Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences on a winter day.
By laying the papers out, Clarkson shaves time off having to go through them at a desk. While the practice may not seem a big deal, she’s happier to move through the tests and use the time saved to hone her teaching skills.
“I love interacting with students,” Clarkson says. “I like trying to find out the best way for students to learn and the best way for me to affect that learning. That’s the nuts and bolts of it. The students are great – they’re a wonderful constellation.”
The professor grew up in Prior Lake, Minnesota, in a home full of animals she grew to love. The passion for the animal world blossomed into a career as Clarkson earned bachelor’s and DVM degrees from the University of Minnesota before heading to Texas A&M University’s PhD program.
Although seemingly bound for an academic career, she found the love of her life in Texas, and he had different plans. Clarkson and her husband, Mike, moved to the middle of Kansas, where her veterinary training landed her in private practice.
“That gave me a good perspective for teaching the veterinary students,” she says. “You never know where the degree will take you.”
In this case, it eventually took her family back to the Twin Cities 17 years ago. While Clarkson once worked as a researcher on stem cells, she has focused for several years on students, winning national and University teaching awards.
“I found teaching to be much more gratifying instantly, while stem-cell research was interesting but had a much longer delay in gratification,” she says. “I liked it, but not as much as teaching.”
Lately, Clarkson has concentrated her teaching on anatomy, biomimicry (we can learn a great deal from animals, she says), and intercultural communications. As the nation and the region grow more diverse, veterinarians will encounter clients who may not agree with their treatments and approaches, she says.
“Students need to learn that clients don’t always think the way they do,” she says. Part of the learning comes when students share their backgrounds with classmates and learn that, while they may look rather homogenous on the surface, they grew up in different parts of the world and in a variety of households and settings.
“They have their own culture and perspective, and they don’t realize that until they’re asked to address it,” she says. “When we ask, ‘what was your family like, what were the common foods you ate, what were your family’s sayings,’ the students begin to realize that these people they’ve known for, say, three years, are actually very different from them.”
A mother who raised four children, Clarkson likes to spend free time hanging around her home with family, playing with grandkids, and designing furniture or rooms in her Grant, Minnesota, house.
“I even designed my own chicken coop,” she says, with a smile.