Learning is a two-way
street for award-winning history professor
by Robie Liscomb
Students aren't the only ones busily taking notes in the classes of Dr. Greg Blue (history), this year's winner of the faculty of humanities award for excellence in teaching.
"Dr. Blue is the only professor I've had who takes notes on what the students are saying, creating a sense that our contributions are both relevant and valuable," writes one of his student nominators.
Taking notes during class discussions is just one of the student-centred methods Blue uses in upper-level courses to improve his teaching and ensure that it's responsive to the interests of his students.
Blue came to UVic in 1990 with no prior teaching experience. "I've learned by doing and by picking up
approaches from friends and colleagues," he says. "Note-taking while leading discussions is a technique I learned from a grad school supervisor. A lot of my general attitudes are shaped by memories of what a difference it made to me to have profs who were willing to listen to what we were interested in and help us relate that to a range of other ideas and outlooks."
Blue's nomination letters make frequent reference to his availability to students as a teacher and mentor. "His office hours are not only a space to discuss course concerns," writes one student, "but to engage a mentor in the complexities inherent in the study of history and responsible, involved scholarship."
Blue teaches courses in world history, colonialism, decolonization, and historiography. His research interests include cross-cultural perceptions and interactions, Western understandings of imperial China and other non-Western societies, particularly in the area of social theory, and the history of racism and colonialism.
"UVic is now one of Canada's centres of world history, in both research and teaching. Without Greg Blue, it would not be so," says history chair Dr. Eric Sager.
Blue's students consistently remark on the breadth of Blue's knowledge and the depth of his analysis. They also cite his quiet, attentive manner, the encouragement he provides, and the supportive atmosphere he fosters in class.
"I hope my students leave with some sense of the world and its complexity and diversity, and with concrete knowledge of some of its parts," says Blue. A number of his students have gone on to successful careers in international relations, and many more have developed the analytical tools and perspectives that will help them deal knowledgeably with the international issues of the day.
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