For the past 22 years, University of Puget Sound Professor Karl Fields has taken a hands-on approach to teaching, allowing students to not only learn about a given topic – but also to experience it as much as possible. The professor of politics and government, with an emphasis on Asian studies, has been known to give students an opportunity to travel to the area of focus. “Giving students a chance to not only learn about a region or event, but also giving them a chance to go there and learn in that setting is just invaluable,” Fields said. It came as no surprise to students or faculty when Fields was chosen for the 2012 Washington State Professor of the Year Award by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Higher Education. This is the seventh such honor awarded to a Puget Sound professor, giving the institution more titles than any other college or university in the state. “I am very humbled,” he said. “I have worked closely with two different groups of faculty, in politics and government and Asian studies, so I have worked closely with an incredible group of teacher scholars.”
Fields encourages students to take control of their own learning process, and employs many small group activities and student-led lessons in each of his courses. “I’ve come to realize over the years that you can impart information in a lecture or monologue, but nothing can replace the importance of giving students the responsibility, with my guidance, for their own learning,” he said. “This is not a novel discovery, but it is a good lesson I’ve learned from other excellent teachers I’ve known throughout the years.” Through Puget Sound’s Pac Rim program, Fields had the opportunity to accompany a group of students to countries in Asia, teaching courses focused on local politics and history.
“There is nothing like the experience of standing in the location that you’ve taught for years that a certain historical event or movement has taken place,” he said. Throughout the years, Fields has kept in contact with many students, and is especially proud of the success many of them have achieved. “I have met with graduates in Seattle and New York, Hong King and Tokyo, Shanghai and London – all of whose lives were reshaped by the influence of Karl and the Asian Studies program,” Puget Sound President Ronald R. Thomas said. “His excellence in teaching comes not just from his brilliant lectures, but equally from an intensely humane and authentic investment in the discipline and culture he loves and in the students for whom he cares so deeply.”