Jill Knapp, professor of Geography at BYU, shares Doctrine and Covenants section 88, verses 78 and 79, in which we are taught to learn about “countries and kingdoms” that we might “be prepared in all things” in the first lecture of every semester in her class Geography and World Affairs. Through the class, she strives to increase students’ awareness of their relation to the rest of the world.
She says: “The Lord sees geography as an important thing. And that’s partially because geography helps us know that we’re not an isolated people, but we’re connected to the rest of the world.”
Learning Sympathy through Geography
To that end, Knapp fuses gospel learning with secular education throughout the course. One of her class outcomes is to “better understand the inter-connectedness of the world so we will appreciate those who contribute to making our life so abundant and easy and so we will be more willing to help those who have less. For me, the hope is that by introducing students to a variety of different peoples, cultures, and problems in the world, that they become more sympathetic.” Over the twenty-two years she’s taught the course, she’s noticed a difference in her students.
“Today’s students are so much more globally aware. They’ve traveled more, seen the world more, and are much more willing to get involved.”
The Blessed Location of the United States
In a history class, you’ll likely learn about how politics, ideologies, and religions shaped the world. But geographic location and environment is not always considered as part of the equation. Knapp teaches, however, that much of the reason that the United States has been so prosperous has been due to environment and geographic location.
“We have been so tremendously blessed to live in the United States,” she says. “People everywhere are our brothers and sisters. And [the fact that we live] in such a blessed circumstance [is] not by chance, nor [is] it without some responsibility for the rest of the world. I try to help students understand that we really aren’t more deserving of the blessings that we have [than anyone else], so let’s go do something to improve the world in some way. Finding that way can be tough, even for me. But there is certainly a way for each of us to do it.”
Desire is More Important than Knowledge
At BYU, we enter to learn and then go forth to serve. Jill Knapp is just one of the many great professors who are working to build the kingdom of God on the earth, one pupil at a time.
“For me, it’s more important to instill a desire than to instill knowledge,” says Knapp. “I encourage my students to be disciples, and to go out and love the world. A desire to learn, serve, and to learn for a lifetime – that’s what I want for my students.”
What other BYU professors do you know who help others become disciples of Christ?