Professors who teach in higher education help shape their students’ minds so they can become fearless leaders. Professors provide tools for their students to prepare for the workforces they will enter. Higher education faculty members show their students how their lectures are being implemented outside the classroom while transforming and inspiring their students’ lives. I asked some Caldwell University faculty members why they teach in higher education. The unique commitment of our amazing faculty to teach young adults was apparent in their responses.
Stephanie Lopez ’22
For me, teaching has always been a way to explain thoughts and ideas in a manner I can understand. As a student, this was very important to me, especially in topic areas I found difficult or challenging. Additionally, I enjoy giving students insight and direction in their career planning that I had difficulty identifying earlier in my career. I believe highly qualified candidates are often overlooked because they don’t know what to say or whom to speak with. Many of my lectures include how students can apply the new information to their personal arsenal of workforce skills.
When I was transitioning from clinical to administration, I was unfamiliar with how to actually make the change. To obtain a position is one thing, but to mentally make the switch from patient care to administration is another. Knowing what areas I needed to focus on and how to prioritize in a nonclinical setting was challenging, especially without having a mentor. I was fortunate to have worked under someone at the New Jersey Department of Health who would provide me guidance as I began my career in health care administration. As a matter of fact, that person has been retired now for over a decade and I still reach out to him for advice. A strong mentor is invaluable.
Jeffrey Egnatovich, M.B.A., BSN, RN, NRP
Program Coordinator, Healthcare Administration
I teach because I want to have a positive impact on my students’ lives. Organic chemistry has a fearsome reputation and is often referred to as “pre-med killer.” Breaking down this daunting subject into something simple (dare I say fun too) for students gives me the most satisfaction. I often find myself leaving school with a smile, thinking back on their “lightbulb” moments in the classroom. I also teach because I enjoy the personal connection with students. Each student is unique, and I love listening to their stories and often find them inspiring. Some say that “Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” It is humbling to watch students grow and transform with the right support. I feel honored to be there to help them become the best version of themselves. So why do I teach? I think Aristotle said it best. “Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation.”
Xiaolei Gao, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Chemistry
As a professor, I’m in a place of privilege to actualize that which education ought to do—orient students. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, from news outlets, social media and even from within educational institutions and presses themselves, which at times offer no more than ideological indoctrination rather than free, critical and rigorous thought. I challenge my students to think honestly, openly and critically and to think around and through all dimensions of the theological topics we engage. At Caldwell University, I’m able to join wonderful faculty in providing holistic educations to our students that engage the spirit in addition to the mind.
Stephen Meawad, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Theology
Teaching in higher education is one of the greatest joys of my life, the seeds of which were planted way back as a first-generation college student here at Caldwell (College) University. At that time, I did my best to balance my coursework, writing my honors program thesis, meeting the demands of the SGA and interning for a congressman. However, the real struggle was sitting quietly while watching my father grapple with basic comprehension of the newspaper or his difficulty filling out government disability forms. During that final year at Caldwell, I found myself questioning my path to law school and asking questions such as, “Where were the teachers for my dad? How did retention year after year seem to be the best solution?” These questions would not subside, and so I broke the news to my parents that I would not be attending law school, but instead I would be returning to Caldwell to pursue a teaching certification. That fall I secured a middle school teaching position at St. Mary’s School in Paterson under the condition that I would attend courses on the weekends to obtain licensing. I worked beside struggling readers just like my dad, and I taught myself as much as I could to meet their needs while earning their respect and trust. For the past 25 years I have worked in education as a reading interventionist and literacy coach.
Today I am educating tomorrow’s teachers. It is a privilege to work with university students pursuing the dream to teach. Some of my favorite moments come from teaching our first education class (ED206) where students learn how to create lesson plans in our curriculum lab. The students are full of awe and excitement. They lean on theories and practices we have read and discussed to craft lessons that honor all learners. Through the School of Education, students are readily prepared for their final semester of student teaching. Having a front-row seat to witness the making of a CU future educator is a dream beyond measure, and that’s why I choose to teach in higher education.
Juliann Meletta, M.Ed.