Psychology instructor Kris Leppien-Christensen began teaching at Saddleback in 2005. He was shocked to hear the news of his selection. (Kylie Corbett)
Kris Leppien-Christensen, a psychology instructor, began teaching at Saddleback in 2005. Nominated by a former online student of his, Leppien-Christensen has been chosen as the full-time Professor of the Year.
As a community college graduate of Palomar, Leppien-Christensen decided to transfer to the California State University, San Marcos. At San Marcos, he obtained both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology. At Saybrooke University in San Francisco, he further went on to acquire his Ph.D.
Leppien-Christensen originally began majoring in engineering, but after his first semester at Palomar, he changed it to psychology.
“It was mainly because I enjoyed the subject matter more, and I had a very [devoted] psychology instructor,” Leppien-Christensen said. “I don’t know if he knows what an impact he had on me, his class made me really love psychology.”
At San Marcos, Leppien-Christensen found a professor that gave him a sense of what he wanted to do with his life by taking several of his courses in order to have enough units to be eligible for a M.A. degree.
“Interestingly enough, the one who motivated me to teach, was an English professor,” Leppien-Christensen said. “I minored in English, [and even though] it’s not a topic I really enjoy, he was such a dynamic faculty member, I ended up taking a lot of his courses.”
Before 2005, Leppien-Christensen taught at Imperial Valley College, but later decided to teach at Saddleback because it was much closer to home and he wanted to find a college where he could make a career and stay until retirement.
“I chose Saddleback largely based on its reputation, which was even well-known out at IVC, particularly among the Nursing faculty,” Leppien-Christensen said. “Saddleback [also] has a number of resources, [especially] in the area of technology, that other schools don’t offer.”
During Leppien-Christensen’s childhood, he believes his father influenced his decision to be a teacher because he was a counselor and part-time business and real estate professor with a master’s degree at Chapman University.
“I would have to acknowledge that he inspired me because he was a military veteran and I didn’t know this at the time, but he was actually a high school dropout,” Leppien-Christensen said. “He joined the military at 17, at the end of World War II, and the reason he went back to school was because he knew the odds of his kids graduating high school, let alone college, were slim.”
Leppien-Christensen has been fortunate enough to have no real difficulties in his career, besides balancing different aspects in his life, along with teaching. He describes his job as the well-known cliché, “like a box of chocolates,” because he is lucky to have a fun job that he enjoys.
“Every class has its own personality, dynamic, and I hope my students learn from me as much as I learn from them,” he said. “Seeing all their perspectives is always neat.”
Besides family, Leppien-Christensen’s Dean, Patricia Flanigan, has always supported him on a day-to-day basis throughout his career at Saddleback.
“I think we are lucky at Saddleback because we have a pretty strong team of administrators that support faculty,” Leppien-Christensen said. “I think too often we try to think there’s a distinction between the two; because faculty members teach and administrators administrate, but they can’t do their jobs without us, and we can’t do ours without them.”
Although he has been nominated before, Leppien-Christensen was still shocked to be a nominee for Professor of the Year.
“Just to be nominated is thrilling,” he said. “It was really out of the blue and it was a student who had me a couple years ago for an online course. So to know I could have an impression on an online student was really interesting.”