Showing students and employees that they really care: That’s a hallmark of a great faculty member.
Laura Jones, an alumna who now works as an assistant in community health education in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences of UT Extension at UT Knoxville, shared these stories about two faculty members who “invested in my life and paved the way for me to both attain and use my degree.”
“Dr. Jay Whelan, department head in nutrition, was my thesis committee chair and mentor. I worked in his laboratory as a graduate student,” she said. “On more than one occasion, Dr. Whelan made sure that I knew about scholarship opportunities, and he secured extra funding for me, when possible, so that I could stay afloat financially as a full-time graduate student.
“Many times he pushed me ‘out of the nest,’ so to speak, by giving me responsibilities that he thought I could handle — but seemed at the time to be beyond my ability –knowing that in the long run it would increase my confidence. He was willing to let me make mistakes in the process of learning. This is an invaluable asset in an educator.”
Jones graduated in December 2005 with a master’s degree in nutrition and started working at UT Extension alongside Bobbi Clarke, professor of community health education and a UT Extension health specialist. In this role, Clarke leads the statewide community health education program delivered through the network of UT Extension educators working across the state.
Jones provides technical support to grants addressing cancer education and managing chronic diseases.
“I have worked for Dr. Clarke for most of the time since I graduated up to the present,” Jones said. “Since I graduated, I have had three children, and Dr. Clarke has been very innovative in finding ways to help me work part-time so that I can devote time to my children and also stay connected professionally. I can’t tell you how much this has meant to me.”
Jones said she knows these faculty members reached out to her because someone once reached out to them.
“Both of these faculty members have stories of their own where past professors or bosses extended a gracious hand to them and gave them opportunities to continue their education and balance work and young children. I think this is a powerful example of how all of us should be conscious of what a difference we can make in someone’s life just by having an attitude to use our resources and connections to help people up the ‘ladder of success.’”