One of the things I love about working in higher education is that no day is the same … except in one regard.

Education is a field where you leave every day and truly feel like you’ve made a difference.

But working in higher-ed isn’t something I grew up considering as a career. I had some fabulous mentors along the way who helped guide me where I am today. And now that I’m here – wrapping up my second year at Missouri Southern – I can’t see myself doing anything else.

I’ve been very blessed and feel so lucky to be a college professor, especially now. There are a lot of changes happening at MSSU, both in my department and at the university as a whole. It’s exciting to be a part of it.

My biggest focus, second from teaching, is coordinating our graduate programs. We’re seeing a huge boost in applications, which is translating into enrolled students.

Enrollment has grown to the point where we’re going to add another cohort to our Master’s in Educational Administration program. The Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction is also booming, in part because of how flexible the online offerings make it, but also because students are only required to take 18 hours of core classes. The other 18 hours of graduate study are completely up to them, allowing them to create something of an emphasis area. I think that’s very appealing.

Something else I am excited about is my first research project here at Missouri Southern. Along with a few others in the department, I’m working on a study to analyze our students’ experience with substitute teaching.

We’re surveying students who have completed 60 hours or more to find out how many of our students have had experience as a substitute teacher, what led them to make that decision – or why not, for those who haven’t – and what they gained from it.

If our students can sub before they get jobs, it just adds to the clinical experience that they have in the classroom, helps them with classroom management and more.

And if the survey shows that the experience is benefiting them, our challenge will then be to make it so they have the opportunity to get that experience as part of their education.

I believe that this kind of work serves an important purpose. It makes our students feel like they’re involved in decisions we’re making as a department and that will ultimately affect them – not just at the basic class level or program level, but in their teaching career. It gives them that much more buy-in.

Students know when their teachers are thinking “big picture.” They see when an assignment is relevant to their own lives. They get it. And building that kind of a relationship with your students is what it’s all about.