A character in and out of the classroom
Published: Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 01:10
Professors carry an incredible wealth of knowledge, and have equally incredible stories to match. “Not many people can say they’ve kissed Carrie Fisher—on Broadway no less,” Casey Allen, professor of geography and environmental science at CU Denver said.
Allen has always loved the performing arts, but it wasn’t until a theater trip to New York with one of his grad students that he got his big break.
“We saw Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking,” Allen said. “Close to the end of the first act she said, ‘I need a volunteer to help me.’ And the audience went silent, and I screamed, ‘I’ll help, I’ll help.’”
“So she calls me up on stage and she put a wig on me with the Princess Leia braids. And I was on stage with her and I got to close the first act with her, I got to hang out with her backstage, and I got to kiss her, twice,” Allen said. “It was awesome.”
Movies have also been a big part of Allen’s life. His favorite genre is science fiction/fantasy, but he watches everything, no matter what the reviews might be.
“I’ve seen, probably, every movie there ever was since about 1985. I love movies. I go see them no matter how bad they are. There will be someone who likes it in class, and I have to be able to relate to it,” Allen said. “I try to incorporate a lot of movies and cinema into my teaching.”
As Allen got older, he knew he wanted to be a professor, but as a kid he had his sights on something else. “I wanted to be a scientist when I was a little kid and I saw The Absent Minded Professor with Fred MacMurray,” Allen said. “I thought that was the coolest thing.”
From scientist, Allen moved onto many different fields. When he began his undergrad, Allen thought he would focus on his love of the arts, but after trying out a few different majors, he stumbled upon his true calling.
“I started out as a musical theater major, and switched to geology, then recreation, history, botany. I was all over the place,” Allen said. “I finally ended up taking an intro to physical geography class and I connected with it. I saw that everything I wanted to study could fit in a nice little package of geography.”
And when it comes to teaching, Allen remains focused on his students.
In the geography department he has created a Maymester trip to Granada, where his class studies the geography of the island. He also created the Geography By Rail program, which studies the world using the railroad as it’s classroom. “It’s all about the students for me,” Allen said. “I really work hard to get them excited about learning.”