JRNM 151 student
After attending Harvard and teaching at the university for seven years, and then working for the Cleveland Clinic for six years, Harry Kestler, Ph.D., chose to teach at Lorain County Community College.
“It’s been the dream job of my life, and I mean it,” said Kestler.
Kestler, who teaches microbiology, has been researching HIV for decades and feels that he can truly make a difference at LCCC.
“If I help a student at Harvard, that’s great; he’s going to be successful anyway,” Kestler said. “I can provide opportunities for students here that usually don’t exist at a community college.”
Kestler explained that LCCC college and high school students are doing research on HIV, a rare opportunity for many students, especially on a community college campus.
“This opportunity doesn’t exist anywhere in the world,” Kestler said. “We are doing university research at LCCC.” People are usually blown away when they discover that his students are studying HIV, he added.
“My job is so satisfying,” said Kestler. “I love working with community college students because I make a difference and I have the opportunity to help someone who would benefit from my assistance.”
Another member of LCCC’s faculty, Bruce Weigl is a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist and creative writing professor.
“I can do a lot more for LCCC than at a university,” said Weigl, who has also taught at Penn State University and Case Western Reserve University, but chose LCCC. “I know when I walk into class each semester, I’m going to have a handful of talented students,” Weigl said.
He has seen students from LCCC transfer to some of the best writing programs in the country.
Weigl’s mother was diagnosed with dementia,which led him to leave Penn State 16 years ago. He decided to continue his career at LCCC, which he genuinely loves.
The main difference between working at a community college and a university is the amount of teaching, according to Weigl. Professors teach more at a community college and focus more on research at a university.
“We have an outstanding faculty at LCCC,” Weigl said. “They love teaching. It doesn’t mean they don’t have the option to teach wherever they want.” he continued. “Students here don’t always have the opportunity to work with a writer, so I’m going to give them that opportunity.”
One of Weigl’s students told him that her friend, who attends Ohio State University, asked her to transfer to a school that has “real teachers.”
“I said to her, ‘Tell your friend to ask her English teacher how many books he’s published.’” Weigl’s student later reported that her friend’s English teacher hasn’t published any books.
“Well, I’ve published 25,” Weigl said. “Who’s getting the better deal?” he asked.
Amy Keller, Communications/Public Speaking professor, said she loves the non-traditional students at LCCC. She enjoys the age difference because she loves seeing the responsibility students portray, as well as more concern they have toward their academics. Keller also feels that students at LCCC are more diverse.
The primary reason that community colleges have grown so much in popularity is because, by and large, they have significantly improved academic standards over the last 15 to 20 years, according to educationcorner.com. Dozens of studies have shown that students transferring from a community college outperform their university counterparts, according to the website.
Out of Ohio’s 23 community colleges, LCCC transfer students outperform the graduation rate of all other 22 schools, according to the LCCC Department of Institutional Planning and Effeteness. “This speaks volumes about our faculty and demonstrates that they teach here because they are so committed to our students’ success,” said LCCC president, Dr. Marcia Ballinger.
Before becoming president, Ballinger served as vice president and provost. One of her responsibilities was hiring faculty to ensure the success of LCCC students.
“Our faculty truly optimize in my view, the best of the best. They are world class and it shows. It shows in how well our students perform,” said Ballinger.
Ballinger had interviewed numerous faculty applicants for full-time faculty or new positions over the past five years.
“It is always the case that we have an extraordinary number of individuals applying to become our faculty here. In that process, we specifically ask them as part of their teaching philosophy, why they would like to teach at LCCC? How do their passions and goals tie into teaching at LCCC and community colleges in general?”
Ballinger explained hat the screening and hiring process committees are comprised of LCCC’s faculty. Faculty peers are the ones who are helping to find the best new faculty candidates.
“Our process includes teaching demonstrations, so that our faculty is able to evaluate how that individual would connect and engage with students,” Ballinger said. “As we hire faculty, part of our promotion policy really imbeds a lot of expectations. We are truly committed to professional development.”
Ballinger said that many faculty members have attended LCCC, graduated from LCCC, or attended another community college as students at some point.
“They use their strong foundation and base of having been a student here at one time. They truly embrace the full community college mission. Part of their philosophy is giving back and being able to directly impact students’ lives through education,” said Ballinger. “We have been extremely focused on that since the time that this college was created.”