When you walk into Professor Andrew Hassard’s geography class, you will encounter a lively and passionate teacher. You will be challenged to write well and make progress, from the beginning of the semester to the end. You will learn to think and evaluate subject matter. He makes geography about more than just maps and places.
Students rate Hassard highly, and he is a sought-after NPC instructor. He says, “I try to be animated and enthusiastic. I want my class to be interesting. This is social science, and it’s not necessarily just facts and figures. It’s about critical thinking and analyzing. I ask a lot of essay questions on tests because students need to learn the ability to write well. I want students to explain things.”
When students walk into his office, they encounter “history in the making,” as he puts it. Within a few feet of his office door is a red velvet rope extending between two poles. It separates his desk from a place for visitors, just like museums that separate visitors from historical artifacts.
“I teach geography and this is, at its base, a border,” Hassard says. “Roping things off with red velvet rope is typically seen in movie theaters, museums, for special VIPs. The idea is to witness living history and borders. Most people laugh and think it’s funny. One of my students walked in here, looked at me and then looked at the red velvet rope. He stopped to think, then stepped over it and shook my hand and said ‘glad to meet you.’ He acknowledged and ignored the rope at the same time,” Hassard says while chuckling.
Stopping and thinking—that’s what Hassard teaches his students to do. The native of California is gregarious and entertaining, and he makes sure his students learn valuable life skills in his classroom. He started his career at NPC in 2003 and is serious about his responsibilities as chairman of the NPC Social and Behavioral Sciences program as well as co-teaching NPC’s President’s Scholars honors program alongside Ryan Jones.
What’s the best part of teaching at NPC? Hassard finds “self-satisfaction in helping students who really want and need it. Knowing we’re in a comparatively impoverished and neglected area makes it more satisfying, and, hopefully, more beneficial for the students. From a personal work-environment perspective, working here is great because people who work at NPC really care about helping students.”
Hassard knows that college learning is about much more than just a grade. “Grades are not the end-all/be-all. We don’t know how much a student knows coming into a course. An A student might know a lot, but may not learn as much as a C student learned in the course. I hope to see progress from the beginning to the end with each student, which is a better gauge than grades. It’s that critical thinking and being able to sift out truth from opinion for yourself that is really important.”
NPC’s Professor Jones says, “Students love Andrew. He’s entertaining, but he’s also someone they just like, and I think a lot of it is that he clearly likes students. He makes them feel like their ideas count, and that it is important for them to have ideas. He has a great sense of humor, but there’s more to it than that. The humor makes it possible for him to say things that couldn’t otherwise be said. It’s a kind of pressure valve that lets the conversation go to a different level than it otherwise could.”
Last summer, Professor Jones was teaching an ethics course, and about a third of his students were also taking Andrew’s anthropology class at the same time. “I lost track of the number of times someone specifically referenced something from his class in relation to my class,” he says. “This shows that he teaches in a way that helps students construct a more rich and interesting view of the world, one that they can connect to in other classes and to their lives.”
Students seeking opportunities to learn and be challenged will definitely want to enroll in one or more of Professor Hassard’s courses. You’ll learn about geography, but more importantly, critical thinking skills that will help you throughout your life.
– Dennis Durband