Professor Spotlight: Dr. Chris Cunnings

Lauren Rhodes, Views Editor

Millikin’s very own School of Education welcomes Dr. Chris Cunnings, as the new science education professor. This semester’s School of Education students are receiving an “out of this world” science instruction from one of the tallest, most energetic, and jazzed about science professors I have ever seen. Dr. Cunnings is instructing the new crop of college students who want to educate the future minds of tomorrow. He received his Bachelors of Science in Chemistry from McKendree University with a minor in Biochemistry. He also received his Bachelors of Science in Chemistry Education from Governors State University. He has a Masters in Arts in Educational Leadership & Administration with a type 75 endorsement from Olivet Nazarene University. He received his Doctor of Education in Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

As it turns out Dr. Cunnings did not start out wanting to teach. He played college football and originally majored in Communications and had aspirations of being a sports broadcaster or journalist. After taking a general chemistry course as an elective, Dr. Cunnings fell in love with the subject and never looked back. In his own words, “Unlike in high school, the class was very lab-centered and engaging, and I clicked immediately with the professor’s teaching style and personality.” Dr. Cunnings gravitated towards teaching science due to his fondness to coach football and powerlifting.

Those were the motivators for him to jump into the foray of science education. He can’t imagine himself doing anything else as a career. Millikin and its students sure are glad he never looked back. Rather than work all alone in a laboratory, he adores being around people and utilizing his talents to teach. As one of the students in his various classes, I can tell you that his enthusiasm, positive attitude and passion for teaching science is infectious.

Dr. Cunnings would describe his teaching style as being “very different from the stereotypical college professor, bringing tremendous energy and enthusiasm” for what he teaches to the classroom on a daily basis. He tries his best to “enlighten, entertain and engage,” his students through a multitude of instructional styles and activities. He strives to facilitate discussions about modern issues in science, education, politics and the society at large as well as challenging his students to view the world from a variety of perspectives. In his eyes, perhaps the most important thing is that he is a role model for his students as he wants them to see him as “someone that’s going to help them and fight for them every step of the way as they progress towards their future careers.”

Not bad from someone who did not “care for science much at all,” in high school where his science instruction was boring and quite tedious. He learned the value of hands-on and project-based instruction from McKendree University and it was there he realized that “science was a powerful means of understanding the world around us.” Dr. Cunnings was strongly conisdering studying at Millikin and playing football here and he has always had a tremendous respect for the university. Granted, he did love his job teaching high school science in the Chicagoland suburbs however, he could not pass such a “once in a lifetime” opportunity. “Science should be FUN, and we need to embrace students’ curiosity and encourage hands-on problem solving, inquiry projects, and collaborative learning.” Which is easier said than done.

Dr. Cunnings notes if he had pieces of advice to give he would give the following pieces. Firstly, “make every single class session, every single course, and every single study session count. The world is changing you [so] might as well change with it. Make sure you’re changing for the better, and look for ways to connect your classes to your career. Secondly, always be looking for opportunities to grow your resume. Strive to make as many lasting connections as possible. Lastly, remember that here at Millikin, we all share the same last name. Make decisions that will represent this University in a positive and prolific manner, and help us grow MU’s reputation for outstanding students and world-class educational opportunities.” Dr. Cunnings can always been seen with a smile on his face and clipboard in his hand. Welcome to Millikin, Dr. Cunnings.