Meet Christopher Banks

New history professor brings excitement to the Humanities Division

Photo Caption: Stop by the fourth floor in the Dick building to meet Chris Banks, enjoy a good conversation and perhaps sign up for a few international classes.

Emy Wood

If you’re not winded after climbing four flights of stairs in the Dick building, you’ll find yourself in the humanities division: home to awkward conversations, sleepy smiles and, of course, a fresh cup of joe.

Amidst the stacks of graded papers and student workers sits a new professor: Christopher Banks (and no, I don’t mean the store with comfy women’s clothing). When he’s not busy planning or bustling about his office, he loves to chat and share his passion for international relations—a passion he’s bringing to Union College.

“I saw that Union was an excellent opportunity to work on my love for international affairs in a Seventh-day Adventist environment,” he said during our interview last week.

Born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, Banks graduated from Brown University, received his Masters at Columbia and is currently attending Oxford for his doctorate.

How’s that for a resume? (Oh, and did I mention he’s interacted with the church at a diplomatic level? But, you’ll have to stop by his office for full details on that. Trust me, the conversation is worth it.)

Underneath the degrees and thirst for international affairs lies a real passion for Banks to bring his experience and education to the students of Union.

“Union College will have the first and only [Adventist] undergraduate program in international affairs,” he exclaimed.

With the Seventh-day Adventist Church being global, it only makes sense to have people familiar with international affairs. And if you’ve ever dreamed of becoming a secret agent or running for President, knowing the world at large is a must.  

“We live in a globalized world,” said Banks. “Even if you do art, you should learn more about the actions and reactions of state and non-state actors in our world today.”

Bottom line? This stuff is important.

“The world is literally open to you [with this degree]. All the industries need people with international affairs,” said Banks. As an added bonus, he pointed out, “We will be able to have undergraduates here who are thinking international affairs, but with a Christian mindset.”

Banks can’t give away too many details just yet, but if his excitement is any indication, this program has a bright future.

“In the International Relations courses that will be taught here, and history courses, we can expect a very in-depth look into explaining the world in which we live in today,” said Banks. “I’m open to students’ ideas on their interest and questions.”

“The history department is shifting in emphasis to complement Prof. Banks' knowledge and expertise in International Relations,” said Ben Tyner, associate professor of history.   “Specifically, this will mean that there will be more history classes available in total, but a slight shift in coverage. We will now be offering courses in the recent history of much of the non-western world (e.g. Middle East, Africa and Asia) which can be used for both the International Relations and History majors.”

Need a little teaser for classes? Just ask Banks what time period in history he finds most influential in the way he sees international relations.

“Medieval West Africa, 1300s to the 1600s. They were pumping out three-fourths of the world’s gold which started the stock market in Florence, Italy, because of the gold trade. This is where we get our present stock market system. It’s a little known period in history that has huge effects on how our financial system has grown today.”

Overall, it sounds like Union is once again making changes that will continue to prepare its students for a successful career. If you’re already on the track to graduating with a set degree, consider adding a few of these new courses to your schedule, or even add it in as a minor. Your job outlook, and your worldview will thank you.

“We may be working with a limited amount of faculty for the classes that need to be taught, but I’m happy we will be able to cover what is needed,” said Banks. “I am very pleased that Union has such dedicated faculty. In time, we will have more depth and a strong program that will help those rival Harvard.”

Emy is a sophomore studying communication.