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Focus on Faculty: Chris Rodning

Publication date

September 18, 2018 5:45 PM


Tess Martin

Professor Chris Rodning was named 2018 Honors Professor of the Year.


Professor and Graduate Studies Coordinator of Anthropology Chris Rodning has developed a positive working relationship with the Honors Program and Honors students, both by teaching Honors Thesis Bootcamp for the past four years and by serving on Honors Thesis committees for students within and outside of his discipline. His valuable contributions to Honors earned him the title of 2018 Honors Professor of the Year, an award voted on by Honors students. Professor Rodning appreciates “the privilege and challenge” of working with Honors students from many different disciplines and believes this work has enhanced his own teaching and research skills.


Four years ago, Professor Rodning began teaching the Honors Thesis Bootcamp, a course that is offered in the spring of junior year for students who are planning to write a thesis. He appreciates that this course is large enough to represent a variety of interests, but small enough to maintain the benefits of a seminar format, fostering close interactions between faculty and students. Having written an Honors Thesis himself, Professor Rodning recognizes this as the “peak, culmination, and capstone” of the academic experience of an undergraduate, and he enjoys helping students across disciplines take part in this rich and valuable endeavor. He credits his Honors Thesis with propelling him towards the career path that he has pursued as an archaeologist and as a professor. 


Professor Rodning also personally enjoys discussing research projects because it has allowed him to learn more about how to define research questions that he is interested in, how to imagine kinds of relevant data, and how to develop an approach to answer his research questions. He believes that “learning how to make arguments is a lifelong adventure,” and that hearing and workshopping research questions from different fields benefits both the students and himself. These discussions are invaluable, because they help the entire class think about ways to write that are engaging, interesting, and meaningful to readers within and outside of the discipline.


An archaeologist, Professor Rodning is also involved in fieldwork, which offers a unique research experience. The conditions sometimes pose challenges, but he believes these challenges often confer a sense of “camaraderie, familiarity, and friendship” that is different than a normal academic or classroom setting. This familiarity, he finds, helps him advise students on what their real strengths are and how they might “imagine the world of possibilities.” Some of his students have even gone on to become his collaborators and co-authors on conference presentations and on papers that are submitted for publication.


Professor Rodning’s interactions with students have also helped him as a researcher and as a teacher. Working with students on designing, conducting, and finalizing their research projects has helped him understand what background knowledge and skill sets those students require. These experiences help him develop his coursework to be as relevant and meaningful as possible. He has also learned how to help students at any stage of the research process and how to give them tools to explore topics that are interesting to them so that they might “create new knowledge.” Professor Rodning notes that not everyone wants to or needs to go on to graduate or professional schools, but he still champions the value of undergraduate research in providing a pathway to more advanced and specialized education in certain fields.


Over the years, Professor Rodning has made significant contributions to the academic and personal growth of our students. Tulane and the Honors Program are fortunate to have such an outstanding scholar who provides thoughtful guidance to our brightest undergraduates. Clearly, Honors students have appreciated those contributions with the recognition of the 2018 Honors Professor of the Year. 


All faculty interviewed recommend a book that they find compelling and important.


Professor Rodning’s reading recommendation is The Craft of Research by Wayne Booth, Gregory Colomb, Joseph Williams, Joseph Bizup, and William Fitzgerald. He believes that this text, which is required for the Honors Thesis Bootcamp, is an excellent read and is perfect for students who are imagining research projects. His other recommendation is to identify a recent scholarly book on your topic of interest and read it. This recommendation is motivated by his own college experience, when he read a book about evidence found at Stonehenge and what it means and represents, which made him become very excited about the idea of looking for clues to puzzles about the past.