Director of Land Arts of the American West, College of Architecture, Texas Tech
For two months, over a trail of 6,000 miles, Chris Taylor takes his students on a journey through the heart of the American Southwest to immerse them in its wonder and change their perspective on its very existence.
Taylor teaches Land Arts of the American West at Texas Tech University, “a transdisciplinary field program investigating the intersection of geomorphology and human construction.” The field portion of the course explores how natural and human forces shape contemporary landscapes.
“I take my students out to explore the world in a way they haven’t before,” Taylor said of the program that first began as a concept between the University of Texas and the University of New Mexico in 2001. When Taylor left UT for Texas Tech in 2008, he was able to develop a program in Lubbock.
“They may think they understand the land,” he said, “but a saturated experience changes their perspective.
“I keep waiting for their eyes to pop out of their sockets,” he joked, adding their eyes get bigger and bigger as they gain a greater understanding of the world around them.
“A big connection is made, and the profound experience on the part of the students is quite distinguishable from in the academic setting,” he said.
For those two months, his research, teaching and other duties fuse, Taylor said. He is teacher, safety officer, food organizer, even bus driver.
“I joke with my colleagues that my contact hours in the fall are much different, since they go to 24-7,” he said. “I’m responsible for their safety and wellbeing as well as the intellectual component, which doesn’t turn off at 5 p.m.
“It carries over into my work,” he said of the field experience. “It is an expansive and integrated effort.”
And for all that hard work and all the preparation he does year round, he is greatly rewarded. “Our interaction is richer in the academic setting,” he said, “because of that interaction.”