Spring 2011 Stories
New Geography Faculty Member Brings the World to Evening and Weekend Studies
By Gavin Tiemeyer
John Baldridge has all the qualities of an action hero: he possesses a wealth of knowledge concerning geography and maps, an eclectic blend of academic and private sector experience, and an exciting sense of adventure. Luckily for students, he is a new Evening and Weekend Studies faculty member at The Evergreen State College.
Before coming to Evergreen, he did what any self–proclaimed geography lover would do: he saw the world, or a good chunk of it. Baldridge is happy to point out a tiny place on the map where he worked as a dive instructor in Manado, Indonesia. He spent three years in Nagasaki, Japan, teaching English at an all–women’s junior college. He has also dabbled in freelance Web design and was at one point a sales engineer for a computer networking company.
“I tend to have my feet in a couple of different worlds, and my fingers in a couple of different pies,” jokes Baldridge, who began teaching at Evergreen last fall. “I have been oscillating between academia and high–tech business for sometime.”
Baldridge graduated magna cum laude with a major in creative writing and a minor in physics from the University of Arizona, where he recently earned a Ph.D. in geography. He has a master’s degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from Colorado State University.
It should come as no surprise that an eclectic think tank such as Baldridge found his way to Evergreen. “The education model is so open here,” he says. “I find that a lot of larger schools operate like factories—you crank students through a machine and hand them their degrees. But at Evergreen, the teaching model is organic. Students and teachers work together as allies. Evergreen proves to be a school that I enjoy more and more every day.”
Baldridge’s diverse academic background and real-world experience made him a perfect candidate for teaching at Evergreen. “John is impressive in terms of variety and skill. He brings both quantitative abilities and a multi–disciplinary perspective to his teaching,” says Allen Olson, dean of Evening and Weekend Studies. “He has both the personality and the content areas that work well with our faculty and help to create a good team–teaching environment.”
In the academic program The Age of Irony: 20th Century America, Baldridge puts his geographical expertise to work in order to help students understand the unique correlation between geography and history. “John is a perceptive reader with a broad viewpoint about history, geography, and political economy,” says Susan Preciso, faculty member in literature who co–teaches with Baldridge and labor studies faculty Sarah Ryan in this three-quarter, 12–credit program that is continuing spring quarter.
Learning geography is critical to the understanding of history—and current issues. “The synthesis between qualitative and quantitative reasoning remains critical to achieving a well–rounded liberal arts education,” Baldridge says. “I will help students achieve this synthesis and get the most out of their education.” Gavin Tiemeyer is a sophomore who studies writing and wants to help communicate big ideas that will hopefully change the world for the better.