Upon completing a doctorate in neuroscience, Christina Burden joined the the Division of Science and Mathematics and Physician Assistant program faculty this school year to teach life sciences. With a deep love of biology, Burden is eager to begin teaching, with memories of her own student days not far behind.
Union: Welcome to Union College. You’ve replaced Frankie Rose in the biology department after he was named vice president for Academic Administration. Why are you passionate about teaching biology?
Burden: Thank you. Though the biological world has always fascinated me, it was in college that I realized my love for biology in an academic sense—through my general biology courses and the opportunity to participate in research the summer after my freshman year. From those experiences I decided that biology and research needed to be a part of my career. I started working as a teaching assistant and substitute teacher as a sophomore in college and fell in love with teaching college level biology. From then on, I knew I wanted to get my doctorate and become a biology professor. Getting to help others learn about the biological world, especially the beauty of the human body is, in my opinion, the best job I can imagine.
Union: I understand you finished your doctoral studies this past school year. Where did you go to school and what did you study?
Burden: For my undergraduate and master’s degrees I attended Andrews University and studied biology and behavioral ecology. This summer, I completed my PhD in neuroscience from Arizona State University.
Union: Why do you love teaching?
Burden: I love getting to communicate the fascinating stories that comprise biology in a way that engages students. I also love seeing the academic transformation that occurs when my students begin to understand the stories of how a biological system works instead of just trying to memorize their way through my courses. And, I love getting to know the students and helping them along their life journey in any way I can.
Union: Even though you’ve been here a short time, what is your most memorable event at Union?
Burden: I have been here for only a month, but in that time my coworkers have surprised me with celebrations of my arrival and completion of my doctorate, which made me feel very welcomed and valued.
Union: What do you like best about Union so far?
Burden: I think the campus is pretty and the people are friendly and supportive. That makes for a very nice work environment.
Union: Can you tell me a little about your family?
Burden: Right now I am single, so my close family consists of my parents, siblings, and their families. My mother, an OB, nursery, NICU, and flight nurse; younger sister, a dental assistant; and their significant others live in Kalispell, Mont. My father and his wife live in Ronan, Mont. My older brother who works with the Air Force in Tactical Air Control lives in Clarksville, Tenn., with his wife, son, and daughter. And, my younger brother, a fourth-year medical student, lives in Loma Linda, Calif., with his wife, two daughters, and soon-to-be-born son.
Union: Where do you hope you’ll be in five to ten years?
Burden: For the rest of my career I plan to keep working as a biology professor at liberal arts colleges or teaching universities where I can primarily teach, but also have a small research lab. For the next five years I envision that this will be here at Union. After that, who knows where God may send me. Through it all I will continue seeking to be where God wants me to be and be doing what He wants me to do, no matter where that takes me or what job He gives me next. And, at some point I would like to live and work outside of the United States for an extended period of time, if that is part of God’s plan for my life.
Union: Out of all the schools where you could have taught, why did you choose Union?
Burden: I chose to come to Union because I want to be at a smaller college/university that is focused on quality teaching. The combined position between the Division of Science and Mathematics and the PA program gives me the opportunity to work with both undergraduate and graduate students as well as gain greater exposure to clinical applications of the biology I have been studying. And I wanted to be closer to my family than my other option for employment this year would have allowed.
Union: What is something you’d like all of your new students to know?
Burden: God has a life journey in mind for you. It will not likely be a direct journey, since all the detours and long circuitous paths are all His way of helping you become what He envisions for you. So, seek Him and this life journey He has planned above all else. Do not get discouraged if he leads you on some big detours or if you wander off on your own detours. Just keep asking Him to guide you and show you where He wants you to go and what He wants you to learn. You will find that this journey with Him is an adventure unlike anything you could ever have imagined.
By Elizabeth Bearden