Skip to main content
Cristian Walk
Cristian Walk
Beyond their research, publication activity, grant proposal writing, and the challenge of staying on top of an ever-burgeoning historiography, graduate students in UNC’s history department are, first and foremost, training to become educators. Thus, it is significant that Cristian Walk was selected as one of five winners of the College of Arts and Sciences’ 2022 Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. Walk, a Ph.D student focused on labor, business, and Latinx history in the U.S., notes that he is “honored to have received this award,” and “especially grateful to the students and professors who spent so much time submitting documents and testimony on my behalf.” His experiences as a teaching assistant have further shaped his own work, as, in his words, “I’ve increasingly tried to think about my own work in pedagogical and historiographical questions, allowing me to think through how I would organize a course on American labor or business history.”

The Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching was founded in 1952 by Sarah Tanner and her brother, Kenneth Spencer Tanner, in memory of their parents. The award was established to recognize excellence in inspirational teaching of undergraduate students, especially those in their first and second years of their undergraduate career. In 1990 UNC expanded the award to include the work of graduate teaching assistants. This year, awardees included graduate teaching assistants from the Departments of Computer Science, Psychology, and Political Science. The presence of a historian in this competitive field testifies not only to Walk’s talent as an educator, but also to the fact that, at its best, historical pedagogy emphasizes patience, compassion, and building relationships with their students.

Reflecting on his own time in the classroom, where he developed the skills recognized by the Tanner Award, Walk comments that “the most rewarding part about teaching undergrads is building a meaningful relationship with students and giving them the tools to learn on their own.” He adds, “It is especially rewarding to see students using the tools we teach them to craft their own arguments – especially when they challenge dominant narratives, including those we propagate.” Walk received the Tanner Award while teaching a course on conspiracy theories and historical truth, and he advises his students to “think critically and approach the classroom and entire university system with a healthy dose of skepticism. How does power shape the types of arguments we hear in the classroom and those who make them? That type of question should inform how students approach education and is one that I wish I knew long ago.”

While honored to have received an award for his teaching skills, Walk also wants to use it as a way of drawing attention to the hard work of his graduate student colleagues in the Department of History, who also deserve recognition for their pedagogy and empathy toward students. On this note, he draws attention to the ongoing plight of graduate students in the department: “If UNC really wanted to honor their teachers, they would pay all of us a living wage, not give out a few awards.”

–Nicole Harry

Comments are closed.