Faculty Spotlight on Chris Benker

Chris wearing a suit and tie

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Chris Benker is a Professor of Geology at Bakersfield College. He is currently in his sixth year at BC and has taught in the Geology field for more than 10 years. He developed an interest in Geology when he was younger, and it was a research trip he took in college which inspired him to pursue the field as a career. 

“While in college, I was on a field trip in Death Valley (CA) with some of my professors,” says Mr. Benker, “and I realized that their job was to take Geology students camping and hiking, and they got to go to some really cool places.” At that time, he viewed being a professor as a long shot, but he also knew that other careers in the Geology field were interesting and stable. 

When it comes to Mr. Benker’s inspiration to become a teacher, he may have had a little help from a younger sibling. “Throughout high school and part of college, I had a younger brother, and I sort of took on a role as his tutor to some extent,” says Mr. Benker. “Then there came a time, I couldn’t tutor him anymore, so I kind of had to tutor myself,” he says. “So, I had to get very creative and come up with different ways of teaching myself - and I succeeded. I was able to get a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and a Ph.D.  So, I figured if I could teach myself, I could apply the methods that I learned to teach other students.” 

When asked about why he came to Bakersfield College, Mr. Benker replies, “It kind of goes back to the field trip I took back in college,” he says, “It’s kind of a full circle thing. I was the student in Death Valley studying Geology, and I thought it would be cool to be the professor teaching students, and possibly future professors, the Geology of the area.”  

For each student that takes one of his classes, Mr. Benker strives to help them understand the history of the earth and what brought each of us here to this point in time. “I want my students to have a bigger sense of how they got to be here today,” he says, “it’s a long, long story and I don’t think it’s just if you go through life not knowing the journey of all the organisms and evolutions that contributed to everything you see around you today.” He believes that if students can connect and understand the history of the earth, it can have a profound impact on their daily lives both in and out of the classroom. 

Mr. Benker believes that pursuing a Geology major or career can be a very positive choice for students. “The Geology career path is an excellent choice. It is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) career, so it will have a competitive salary,” he explains, “and especially in Bakersfield, because the oil industry is already in town. So, you would be able to work where you grew up. I think it would be a good advantage to take on that major.”

Mr. Benker visiting cave site
Mr. Benker and colleagues during a past BC graduation ceremony