Heartfelt teaching ensures student success

(05-30-2008)

Opinion by Dr. David Svaldi, president of Adams State College

It takes a lot of people to run a college these days, but faculty members are the heart and soul of Adams State College. Virtually every college and university boasts of a low student-faculty ratio, but Adams State faculty actually walk the talk of quality undergraduate teaching.

ASC President Dr. David Svaldi

ASC President Dr. David Svaldi

While most faculty spend 12 hours each week in the classroom, they devote many more hours to their students - it's seldom a 40-hour week. All ASC faculty are available to give students individual academic assistance and career advice during office hours, and some also offer virtual chat office hours. On any given Sunday afternoon, you are likely to see ASC faculty working with their students in the Nielsen Library. Beyond academics, our professors sponsor a myriad of co-curricular activities and participate with students socially and in extra-curricular activities.

Here are a few recent examples of the personal commitment Adams State faculty make:

  • A recent lead article in the South Coloradan feted 3 outstanding ASC faculty members selected as "Presidential Teaching Award Winners."
  • Our highly successful "Big Read /Fahrenheit 451" project, directed by an outstanding theatre faculty member, extended awareness of First Amendment issues to the entire community.
  • Our Model UN Club competed at the national meet in New York City after many, many hours of practice and fund raising under the direction of a dedicated faculty member.
  • Pi Beta Lambda, a club for future business leaders sponsored by two ASC business faculty, qualified a record number of student competitors for the national meeting in Atlanta.
  • A hard working psychology faculty member coordinated an exhibit of ASC student papers and projects.
  • A physics professor coordinated a series of Wednesday lunches offering free pizza and talks by ASC faculty in a variety of disciplines about their research or other special topic.
  • One professor has organized an ASC softball team which will help build community among faculty, students, and staff.
  • A professor in human performance and physical education directed students in a "Healthy Buddies" service learning project with local elementary students.
  • A physics professor organizes an annual Colorado Robot Challenge, open to high school and college students statewide. Competitors build and program robots to navigate the Mars-like terrain of the Great Sand Dunes National Monument.
  • Two faculty members joined with our Community Partnerships office in presenting a "Focus the Nation" conference addressing local and national environmental issues.
  • A longtime chemistry professor initiated a new organization committed to increasing campus sustainability.

This tireless dedication to student learning and success is what makes ASC such a special place.

One international student told me a story about a professor who invited him to their family Thanksgiving Dinner upon learning the student would be on campus during break with no place to go besides his dorm room.

This thread of caring faculty is woven through the history of ASC. The first president, Dr. Ira Richardson, not only led the college, but taught a course in philosophy required of all ASC seniors prior to approval for graduation.

ASC's second president, Fred Plachy, was also committed to helping students reach their goals. One alum tells his story: He arrived at ASC in the mid '60s after a somewhat checkered career at another institution. After his father shared his son's past errors with Dr. Plachy, the student was required to meet weekly with the President to report his successes and failures. This same alum credits his forensics coach, a faculty member, with instilling in him an understanding of rhetoric and eloquence, as well as with ensuring his ultimate professional success. That graduate was our commencement speaker last fall.

As one student said at this spring's Presidential Teaching Award banquet: "It takes mind and guts to be a teacher, but it takes heart to be a great one." The faculty at Adams State absolutely teach from their hearts.