|EIU Faculty Laureate Thanks 'Grandma Robinson' for Opening His Eyes
August 10, 2010
Eastern Illinois University students fortunate enough to have Cameron Craig as a teacher should thank “Grandma Robinson” for the pleasure.
“She’s the one who opened my eyes to the fact that there’s much more to my life than music,” the geographer/climatologist/musician/historian/etc., said. “She’s also the one who taught me that there’s no such word as 'can’t.'”
And now Craig’s on a mission to pass that same message on to others.
As EIU’s 2010-11 Faculty Laureate -- an honor presented to him by the Council on Academic Affairs -- he will reach out to an even larger audience than usual during this coming academic year. As the university’s official spokesperson on the importance of a general/liberal education, he will deliver the keynote address at the 2010 Convocation, a welcoming ceremony for incoming students.
The event is set to begin at 9 a.m. Friday, Aug. 20.
As he speaks to Eastern’s newest students, Craig will likely be recalling his own undergraduate years when things didn’t go exactly as planned. He spent the first three years at Indiana State as a music major. But something, he said, “just didn’t feel right.”
He ultimately received a bachelor’s degree in history, followed four years later with a master’s degree in geography. Craig is currently a geographer/climatologist in EIU’s Department of Geology/Geography. In addition, oversees students in the broadcast meteorology minor and collaborates with WEIU-TV's “News Watch” as a meteorological consultant.
He is also founder and director of the EIU WeatherCenter that provides meteorological and climatological data to the public, researchers and students.
In 2006, Craig founded Tempestas et Caelum Productions, providing a creative outlet for students in broadcast meteorology, geography, geology, history and other fields in producing, filming and directing documentary films. Most recently, he and three EIU students headed to Grand Isle, La., and Mobile Bay area, Ala., to document the impact the Gulf oil spill has had on humanity. The project focuses on the personal stories of residents impacted by the oil spill that occurred on April 20.
Craig won’t say he wants all students to choose science as a career. He does, however, want to increase students’ awareness and understanding, allowing all to recognize how science affects their everyday lives.
“When students come in to my Weather and Climate class (a general education class designed for all majors), I ask them, ‘Who likes science?’ And a handful out of 100 will raise their hands,” Craig said. “Then I ask, ‘Who doesn’t like science?’ The majority put their hands up.
“I tell them, ‘My job here is to get you to love science.”
The trick, he continued, is to “relate the material to the students’ level. You have to make it relate to them.” Nearing 40, Craig is a young, energetic faculty member who says he “finds ways as I go along” to get his message across.
“I like spontaneous communication,” he said, noting that he begins his lectures with basic outlines. “But then I use whatever is out there at the time to find a way to make that information understood.”
A recycling bin full of newspapers, for example, can become a quick classroom tool to explain density. Or a table top will become Craig’s dance floor as he leads his (sometimes dubious) students in an impromptu memory exercise that will help them remember test-worthy material.
“I tell the class to stand up, that we’re going to dance. And I can see them – especially the guys -- looking at each other and saying, ‘Hey, man… I don’t dance.
“At first, they think I’m crazy,” Craig continued. “But I say, ‘Yes, I’m a dork. But follow along with me and I think you’ll learn this stuff.’”
It’s always fun come test time, Craig said, chuckling, because he’ll see students sitting at their desks, subtly and quietly performing the dance’s hand moves in order to recall the material needed to answer written questions.
"I try to make learning fun and exciting. And yes, I may sometimes get overly enthusiastic,” Craig said. “But even though some might find my ways to be a bit unorthodox, they are effective.”