Keith Robinson to Replace Leon Holley as Biology Department Chair

Robinson hopes to implement sustainabilty as a core aspect of the Biology Department.

Keith Robinson, Instructor in Biology and Chemistry, will replace Leon Holley, Instructor in Biology, as the Chair of the Biology Department beginning in the Fall of 2020. Robinson has worked in the Andover Biology Department for 18 years and took the opportunity to become the Biology Department Chair because of his long history with the department and his sense of duty.

Robinson hopes to continue expanding the curriculum and to focus more on environmental science and sustainability. This direction for the department was started during Holley’s tenure, and Robinson hopes to continue the progress. Specifically, the Biology Department aims to redesign the Biology-100 and Biology-500 courses to highlight environmental sciences.

“As a department, we’re heading in a direction where sustainability is becoming an important issue and we’re redoing the Biology-500 and Biology-100 curriculums to reflect that. I want to keep developing that, make it as strong as we can, and really make those courses worthwhile both here, but also for lessons that students take beyond,” said Robinson.

Teaching students the impact of environmental sciences is crucial for Robinsion, especially when he considers sustainability to be of growing importance in the contemporary era. Additionally, Robinson hopes that new curriculums can help students become more aware of global science issues, aid in the growth of sustainability, and help combat climate change.

“We’re at a moment in time where there’s a lot of public consciousness about climate change and sustainability, and I think that giving the tools to understand it as well as a little bit of inspiration to try and be part of the solution is a good thing to do. It intersects a lot with our curriculum anyways, and so the question becomes how can we make ecology more relevant and use it to inform you guys not only to your understanding for the test, but also how you view the world and hear the news and interact outside of the classroom,” said Robinson.

Eli Newell ’20 feels that Robinson’s unique teaching style illustrates his potential as the Biology Department Chair. Rather than keeping the course material strictly in-class, Newell noted how Robinson expands ideas beyond campus into real-life situations and current events. This way, Newell feels that Robinson helps his students gain a greater understanding of the importance of science in society.

“One thing [Mr. Robinson] does really well is connect what we’re studying to its relevance in our lives and the greater society, whether that’s chemistry, what chemicals are used in their industrial obligations, or in biology [and] public health. One thing that [Mr. Robinson] instills very well in his students is how to see concepts as part of a larger picture and understand the relevance of what they’re learning,” said Newell.

To Ash Cohan ’20, Robinson’s passion for science, teaching style, and unconventional perspective brings a different energy to his classes. These combined elements reinforce Cohan’s positive opinion of Robinson as a teacher, and she thinks they will aid his job as the Biology Department Chair.

“He is very dedicated to the sciences and works very hard to make things digestible for people. He cares about climate change, [and] he brings in a lot of real life [examples] when he talks about it, which makes it easier for people to understand… I think that having a realistic view of the sciences is refreshing because a lot of what we learn is very human-centric,” said Cohan.

Although Robinson is looking forward to his time as the Biology Department Chair, he hopes to model the traits he felt made Holley’s tenure successful. According to Robinson, Holley’s attentive and open-minded leadership in department meetings allowed the faculty to explore new ideas and pursue change within the department.

“He’s a really great, calm presence. He does a great job of listening to what we have to say in department meetings. I think that’s really important, to make sure that we’re hearing from all of my colleagues and what they feel is important. His willingness to go out and let [the faculty] explore and try things has been great and that’s [something] I’d love to keep up,” said Robinson.

Newell finds Robinson’s promotion to become the next Biology Department Chair particularly exciting, because he hopes that Robinson will be able to influence other instructors with his style of greater-picture teaching.

“I don’t really know, entirely, what the role of the chair is or how much influence they have, but if it means that his style of pedagogy is more widely adopted, I think that’s one of the most exciting things that could happen,” said Newell.