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Three Virginia Wesleyan Faculty named Batten Professors

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From creating a new major, establishing a week-long homeless shelter, to filming an international documentary, Wesleyan's faculty members continue to raise the bar in academia.

By Megan Z. Shearin ’06 |   July 22, 2009

Since 2004, Virginia Wesleyan College has highlighted its outstanding faculty members through distinguished recognition as Batten Professors.

Serving three year terms, these professors are highly respected classroom teachers who are engaged scholars with a solid publication record. They are also consummate campus citizens, active in campus governance and serve as mentors and advisers to Virginia Wesleyan students.

This year, three faculty members spanning three academic divisions were named to the 2009 Class of Batten Professors. These professors have left their distinctive mark on the College, from creating a new major, establishing a week-long homeless shelter, to filming an international documentary.

DR. STU MINNIS

Batten Associate Professor of CommunicationsDr. Stu Minnis

Q: What fascinates you about the academic field of communications? How do you convey that interest to your students?

A: Mass communications touches on everything. It’s technological, aesthetic and sociological. Even though it’s not a traditional liberal arts discipline, it is the liberal arts. Through teaching, I try to draw a connection between the material and the real-world so students can connect mass media to their daily lives.

Q: Which course is your favorite to teach and why?

A: I love all my courses for different reasons…. My favorite course in the classroom is International Film because I love the subject matter and it’s a class that students take because they want to – not because they have to.

Q: Describe your experience filming the international documentary, Making Peace With Viet Nam.

Ph.D., University of KansasB.S.
M.S., Texas Christian University

A: Professionally, I’ve never done anything that ambitious. My experience reignited my interest in filmmaking, not just film scholarship. I want to make movies again, and I’m particularly interested in making nature films.

Working on the project with Matt Ryan, a Virginia Wesleyan film student, was amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever had a closer relationship with a student before.

Q: What keeps you passionate as a professor?

A: I hate to bore students. I don’t want students to be bored. I want my classes to be interesting and my students to stay abreast on what’s going on in the field of mass communications.

Q: What are your hobbies? What do you do in your spare time?

A: I’m a full-time dad to four children. I also enjoy renovating my home.

Q: What did you want to be when you were younger?

A: I wanted to be an astronaut at one time. I entered college as a geology major and fell into film when I took a film course as an elective.

Q: Where did you grow up?

A: All over – My dad was an Air Force Officer. I have lived in England, New Mexico and Texas.

Q: What or who influenced you to be a professor?

A: I knew I wanted to be a professor before I knew what I wanted to be a professor in. It was really about finding an interest. I’ve always been a movie junkie and loved watching obscure foreign films in high school.

Q: What professional affiliations are you linked to?

A: I’m a long-time member of the Universal Film and Video Association and fellow for the Center for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image.

 

DR. KATHY STOLLEY

Batten Associate Professor of SociologyDr. Kathy Stolley

Q: What fascinates you about the academic field of sociology? How do you convey that interest to your students?

A: I’m fascinated for three reasons – one, because sociology is about people and people are interesting. Two, because my focus is on applied sociology where students can use the things they’ve learned to take positive action and improve our world. And three, because it focuses on our social world, which involves a wide range of topics.

Q: Which course is your favorite to teach and why?

A: They’re all my favorite while I’m teaching them! My emphasis from my training is medical sociology so I really enjoy digging into those topics, which involves ethics, health care, law and policy.

Q: You helped create Wesleyan’s Winter Homeless Shelter and the course “Got Shelter?” How do you think this course benefits Wesleyan students? What is your goal of the course and the experience?

Ph.D., The George Washington University
M.A. and B.A., Old Dominion University

A: The Winter Homeless Shelter and the course is an opportunity for students at several levels. It allows them to connect the classroom material with the real world, think about the sociological issues at the individual and societal levels, and how their lives interact with this larger social issue of homelessness, including its causes and responses.

Q: What makes you interested in the topic of homelessness?

A: As a sociologist, I’m interested in any type of social problem and social solutions. Homelessness has different facets and stereotypes. What students find most surprising, and troubling, is the growing number of homeless veterans. It’s something we should all care about.

Q: You’ve published articles with students and staff on the Winter Homeless Shelter. How does this experience enhance a student’s experience at Virginia Wesleyan?

A: As a professor, it’s exciting to see students learning and engaged. And, that’s what we’re here for – to help students find their passion and give them the tools to do something with it.

Q: At Commencement this past May, you were named the thirtieth recipient of the Samuel Nelson Gray Distinguished Teaching Award, voted by a group of Virginia Wesleyan students. How do you feel about receiving this award?

A: This award is very special to me because it’s chosen by the students. For me, the best part of teaching is when students get excited, engaged and present a different perspective on the subject. To me, being a professor means I'm in school forever. It's going to school and learning new things everyday.

Q: Your path to teaching can be summed up as a little bit of everything. What were your previous careers before teaching and how has that influenced your teaching style?

A: I have developed a sociology Web site, worked for the National Institutes of Health, worked as a contractor supporting NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) for 10 years and served a five year stint as a Virginia State Police Trooper.

I think I apply something from all my background and experiences to the classroom. My heart has always been in teaching because I love learning.

Q: What did you want to be when you were younger?

A: Everything. That’s what’s fascinated me about sociology.

Q: What are your hobbies? What do you do in your spare time?

A: I like to read. I love to swim and I have recently discovered yoga, thanks to a friend. I’m also enjoying working with my dog to have him certified as a therapy pet.

 

DR. JOHN WANG

Batten Associate Professor of Computer ScienceDr. John Wang

Q: What fascinates you about the academic field of computer science? How do you convey that interest to your students?

A: When I was a little kid, I was fascinated with the integrated circuit and the Apollo Program. The field of computer science is very technical and requires a lot of mathematic and logic skills. In the classroom, I urge my students to practice and use their own ideas, keeping them both active and comfortable with the subject matter.

Q: Which course is your favorite to teach and why?

A: I like computer programming because it’s about practicing your problem-solving skills. There’s logic behind the formula – a mathematician can do the formula, but not everyone can do the coding or programming.

Q: In 2004 you led the charge in creating a computer science major at the College, with the help of the late Tom Fanney. Why did you feel this major was important?

Ph.D., University of Southern Mississippi
M.S., Harbin Institute of Technology
B.S., Taiyuan University of Technology

A: We originally had a double-major of Computer Science/Mathematics. With a straight Computer Science major, students have more choices. They can major in computer science, math, or both.

Q: What keeps you passionate as a professor?

A: I love this College – the community and the school. That’s what makes me passionate. There is a kind, supportive and generous community at Virginia Wesleyan College.

Q: What are your hobbies? What do you do in your spare time?

A: I love the Chinese culture – I practice Tai Chi, and it’s like yoga, just the Chinese way. I also play ping-pong and love walking in the Botanical Gardens in Norfolk and Richmond.

Q: What did you want to be when you were younger?

A: I wanted to be a computer scientist.

Q: Where did you grow up?

A: China, close to Beijing.

Q: What or who influenced you to be a professor?

A: My dad – he’s a high school teacher in China. The Chinese culture promotes their children to be scientists.

Q: What professional affiliations are you linked to?

A: I’m a member of ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) and SIAM (Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics).

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