Multidisciplinary professor recounts extensive career

Lecturer of international relations and sociology, conflict studies and legal studies minors coordinator and pre-law advisor Joanna Kirk has led the kind of fascinating life that most can only dream of having.

Kirk received her law degree from the University of Oxford and a master’s degree in international European law from the College of Europe. 

“[Going to Oxford] was very different for me … it was funny to be from a public school and move into this arena in which there were a lot of elites, but it was interesting,” Kirk said. “I loved the freedom that I had there and all the things I could do.”

After graduating with her master’s degree from the College of Europe, Kirk received a lot of job offers, including one from The Hague and one from the International Court of Human Rights. 

“I was in a stage of my life where I was afraid that I would step into this legal career and be sucked into it, and I would never see very different parts of the world,” Kirk said. 

She went to Sri Lanka to teach English for what was only planned to be two years, but ended up staying in Sri Lanka for eight. Kirk picked up work in Sri Lanka writing grants for development agencies. While there, she met a Geneseo alumnus—Charles Strickland ‘74—whom she married in Sri Lanka.

Together, the two of them moved to Nepal. 

“I was working entirely in development work—mostly women’s rights—environmental law and democratization,” Kirk said. “There was a revolution in Nepal while I was there, which was very interesting.”

After Nepal, Kirk spent a year in Washington D.C., where she worked for various aid agencies, including the United States Agency for International Development. During her time there, she learned that the amount of money directed toward an issue cannot predict its success. 

Kirk ultimately decided to end her career in international development in order to live in Geneseo with her husband. She applied for a position at The Lake and Valley Clarion, a now defunct newspaper. She was quickly promoted and eventually received what she deems her proudest accomplishment: first place in the New York State Better Newspaper contest.

Kirk moved on from work as a reporter by obtaining a job at the Office of Communications & Marketing at Geneseo. Once at Geneseo, she started teaching international relations when the college first introduced it as a new major. In 2007, Kirk decided to teach full-time again. 

“I really wanted to get back to the classroom.” Kirk said.  

Now, Kirk teaches three classes a semester. Beyond the classroom, she is heavily involved in the pre-law advisement program, the mock trial club and international education. In fact, she even took a class in 2017 to Ghana over the summer.  

Additionally, Kirk started doing yoga in 2012. She is currently training to be a yoga teacher. 

“I have to tell you about yoga … it’s very important to me,” Kirk said. “I love it, love the postures, the philosophy—all of it.” 

Offering advice, Kirk encourages all students to travel—especially before completing their degrees.

“Travel while you’re a student because you may not be able to do what I did after college,” she said. “Do it, even if it seems scary, even if you don’t want to get off track. Do it while you can.” 

Kirk is a fantastic professor with a riveting life story. With all of her experience, she has made a strong impression on the Geneseo campus.u

 Lecturer of international relations and sociology, conflict studies and legal studies minors coordinator and pre-law advisor Joanna Kirk employs her varied experiences to fulfill many roles throughout Geneseo. (Annalee Bainnson/Photo Editor)

Lecturer of international relations and sociology, conflict studies and legal studies minors coordinator and pre-law advisor Joanna Kirk employs her varied experiences to fulfill many roles throughout Geneseo. (Annalee Bainnson/Photo Editor)