Dr. Brad Balukjian was raised on a lake in rural Rhode Island where nature was his best friend. He was surrounded by blue herons, bullfrogs, and largemouth bass, and he spent much of his childhood identifying insects that inhabited his immediate world.
This fall, as the newest biology professor at Merritt, he will be teaching “Biology of the Living World” (BIOL 29), a brand-new class taught only at Merritt which will combine the discoveries and wonderment he experienced as a child with the vast knowledge and extensive research he gathered as an adult at Duke University and UC Berkeley.
“You might say I never grew up,” he says with a smile. “I was lucky to be a part of that natural environment, and now I want to share it with Merritt’s students who may not all have had the same opportunities to connect with nature, even though it is all around us in the urban landscape of Oakland.”
As part of the class, his students will get up close and personal with that urban landscape on a variety of fields trips to Bay Area regional parks. “We’ll spend a lot of time outdoors in the field learning to identify the plants, animals, funghi, and other oganisms,” he says. “More than 10 million species call Earth home, from the tiniest bacterium to the biggest blue whale.”
The new transferable biology class was designed for non-science majors who may want to focus more on plants and animals than humans and microbiology. Dr. Balukjian likes to call it, “the class for students who watch ‘The Discovery Channel.’” And he guarantees keeping his students’ attention for the entire semester just like the TV network.
“I have a promise to my students that there will be no boring lectures,” he says. “Part of the reason science has gotten a bad rap for being dull is because of the way it’s often taught by just lecturing in front of the class,” he says. “My method is more non-traditional. I design my classes to include something for every type of learner so they can interpret what they learn in their own way. I’m excited to be able to teach in a community college environment that is all about teaching and mentoring and helping students tap into their own potential.”