Tenure-track professors are often seen as academia’s superstars, scoring big research grants and prestigious awards, while lecturers can be the unsung heroes whose central role in shaping the undergraduate experience too often goes overlooked.
Not this time.
Lecturers’ impact came sharply into focus when the Clemson Tigers football team selected Emily Scribner for the Guest Professor Program. The honor gave her and her partner an opportunity to fly with the team to the Boston College game, ride on the team bus, eat meals with the team, and attend the game.
Scribner has a picture with her arm around head coach Dabo Swinney to prove it was no dream.
“Our minds were blown at the amount that we got to be involved,” she said. “We felt really honored and privileged that they wanted to make us a part of that.”
David Freedman, chair of the Department of Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences, said Scribner’s spot in the program was well earned.
“As a lecturer, Dr. Scribner plays an important role in helping the University’s undergraduates, including student-athletes, meet their general education requirements,” Freedman said. “This honor is well-deserved and a testament to her engaging teaching style and the time she takes to help her students understand the materials. I offer her my most sincere congratulations.”
Hundreds of students each year take Scribner’s courses, which include Geology 1120-Earth Resources, an associated lab and Geology 1200-Natural Hazards.
On a recent Monday just past noon, freshman linebacker TJ Dudley, sophomore safety Andrew Mukuba and sophomore defensive tackle Tré Williams made their way out of an auditorium after their Geology 1120 class.
When the student athletes were asked what they thought of Scribner’s course, she received high marks:
Dudley said, “She is very hands-on with everybody in the class. She wants everybody to be interactive and truly wants everybody to learn.”
Williams said, “She is very detailed. She makes sure we know every little part of what she is teaching instead of just the broad topic.”
Mukuba said, “Another thing is she comes by and helps you and talks to you in person. It makes everything really easy.”
Scribner said that Dudley, Williams and Mukuba are great students and that her approach with football players is the same as other students.
“Pedagogical research tells us that active learning makes students feel more included and helps them learn more effectively, so I try to keep a pretty active class,” Scribner said. “They are doing an activity today. I have them work together every class and complete an activity about once a week.”
Scribner arrived in Clemson in 2019 after receiving her Ph.D. in geological sciences at the University of British Columbia in Canada. All she had seen of the United States before she stepped off the plane at Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport was Disney World and northern Minnesota. She had been to one football game in her life, back in high school.
After her weekend in Boston, Scribner counts herself a Clemson Tigers football fan.
Kathryn Koning, director of Football Academic Services, said the Guest Professor Program is offered to up to 12 faculty members a year and is meant to build a bridge between academics and athletics.
“The experience allows the faculty, students, and football staff to have a better understanding and appreciation of each one’s roles and responsibilities here at Clemson,” Koning said. “In short, the guys have had a really positive experience in Dr. Scribner’s class the past few semesters, and we have really appreciated her willingness to be available for office hours and assist in their success in her class while still holding a high academic standard.”
Scribner said she was glad for the recognition but that she wasn’t the only one who deserved it.
“I think it’s important to recognize not just me teaching athletes but also that athletes are taking a full course load, and somehow they are still going to practice and they’re going to weight training everyday,” Scribner said. “They are the impressive ones.”
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