Pioneer Spotlight: Dr. Frank King

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Pioneer Spotlight
Dr. Frank King
October 24, 2014

Dr. Frank King, assistant professor of ethnic studies at UW-Platteville, began teaching at the university in fall 2014. He teaches Introduction to Ethnic Studies as well as Race, Class, and Gender. In these courses, he focuses on the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality and religion. His areas of specialization include Hip Hop pedagogy, the prison-industrial complex, Afrocentric philosophy and African American history.

Originally from Maryland, King moved to Spokane, Wash., with his wife and two children after serving in the United States Air Force. There, he attended and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in education at Eastern Washington University in 2006. In 2013, he received his Ph.D. in American studies.

King and his son live in Platteville. His wife, currently in Colorado with their daughter, is a career member of the Air Force.

Can you define ethnic studies?
Ethnic studies is the interdisciplinary study of the intersections of race, class, and gender and the systems that are in place that prevent some people from being recognized as full citizens.

What do you most enjoy about teaching ethnic studies?
I like opening students' eyes by giving them information that they never may have received before. I also like helping students become critical thinkers. I encourage them to think for themselves and not accept the status quo about what other people should or should not be.

What has impressed you most about your students?
In my classes, we have discussed many controversial topics. Throughout all of our conversations, the students have always been very respectful and willing to listen and learn.

Why are ethnic studies classes so important to a liberal education?
Because UW-Platteville is known as a STEM school, there is an emphasis placed on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. If we look in the past, we see that all courses of study – whether they be in science, technology, engineering and mathematics or in business, industry, life sciences and agriculture or in liberal arts and education – are affected by ethical issues. Ethnic studies helps people recognize and understand some of the important ethical issues that may arise in future careers and in other life experiences.

What are the challenges about teaching ethnic studies today?
One of the challenges is that some people believe we are in a post-racial society and that racism and sexism are a thing of the past, which isn't true. Racism and sexism are still very present and must be examined as large systemic issues – instead of being examined anecdotally – and then addressed.

What are the three most important things you hope students take away from your classes?
First, I hope that students in my classes learn to become independent, critical thinkers in all aspects of their lives so that they can form their own opinions and views about the people and world around them. Second, I hope that students in my classes learn to recognize the humanity in other people and realize that we are all more alike than we are different. And finally, I hope that students in my classes want to be an active part in creating social change that makes this world a better place.

Interview conducted by: Laurie Hamer, College of Liberal Arts and Education.
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