Dr. Anderson Starling
Department of Accounting, Finance, Economics and Political Science
Story by Sarah Knapp
Dr. Anderson Starling’s passion for teaching is directly connected to his relationships with his students. The mere fact that he has the opportunity to not only teach students about political science, but also help them understand what they believe and why it’s important, is what he says excites him for every course he teaches.
“I’m here to teach them about the possibilities for their life,” Starling said. “Does that mean I’m going to sugarcoat everything? No. But I want them to know that if there’s change needed, they can be a part of that change. That keeps me excited.”
Starling, an associate professor of political science, knows that the subject he teaches is often a source of discomfort and dissension, but encourages his students to put aside their political predispositions in order to understand what factors determine their and other people’s beliefs. While the students may still not agree, which he says is completely okay, they are able to see what influences others’ decisions.
“One of the things I really push is about understanding other people’s viewpoints,” Starling said. “When you have an interaction with someone who does disagree with you, it is vitally important for you to try and see where they’re coming from rather than ‘this person is wrong.’… If I can see why you feel the way you do because of your background or your experiences, and I know why I feel the way I do because of my background and experiences, then we can find common ground, which will lead us to compromise to move forward.”
Starling says he makes it a point to not discuss his personal political opinions in his classes in order to ensure his students trust him and the materials he teaches. Every semester, Starling sees students realize what impact the government has on their daily lives and become more involved in activism, regardless of which party they belong to.
“That growth is inspirational to me. It’s why I do what I do,” Starling says. “The fact that they’re in my class is what keeps me optimistic. They’re here learning about government, so when they find out all of the terrible things that may or may not be going on, now they can go fix them.”
Ultimately, his goal as an educator is to see his students succeed. Every graduation, Starling can be found sitting among his fellow faculty members cheering on every student he has taught, thankful he had the chance to influence their lives. His joy of teaching at UT Martin stems from moments like these where he sees all of the hard work the students have put into his classes come to fruition as they prepare to make a difference in the world.