Dr. Judith Chambers has been teaching at the college level for 38 years, most recently doing adjunct work at the University of South Florida (USF) and Hillsborough Community College (HCC).She specializes in literature, philosophy, and topics in the humanities, such as feminism and American studies.Camille Beredjick interviewed Dr. Chambers on August 27, 2010.
CB: What are your favorite topics to teach and why?
JC: I enjoy topics that focus on the interconnection of science, philosophy, and literature.In the classes I have taught at the university, teaching contemporary literature is appealing because it affords the opportunity to talk about postmodern theory and the author's response to the ability/inability of language to articulate the human condition.
CB: You taught a class called “America in the ‘70s and ‘80s.”How have your students reacted to the history that essentially shaped the society they live in today?
JC: The class was nicely small, only 12 senior level students, who were eager and interested to learn about the forces that informed the world they inhabit, especially the impact of television on epistemology and the radical shift in power from left to right that occurred by 1980.They were also most impressed by the seriousness of student activism in the late sixties and early seventies but felt that "it (radical activism on a large scale) couldn't happen today."
However, I was surprised and dismayed at what they did not know, both in terms of historical facts and of the basic strategies of college level writing.
CB: What differences have you noticed between your experiences teaching at a university and at a community college?
JC: Many community college students, unlike many university students, come from families who are not college educated themselves.Interestingly, this makes the serious ones hungry for knowledge, open to new ideas and willing to work.
At the university, I have expected my students to perform immediately at a different skill level, and generally they do have a broader base of knowledge, just by having been exposed to conversations with parents.
However, in general, the hunger to know is the same at both the community college and university level: some students have it, some don't.Of those who don't, with good teaching, many can become converts to the hunger for learning.
CB: What are some of the benefits your students find in attending a community college before a four-year university?
JC: Community college students have smaller classes than most universities offer during freshman and sophomore years.At USF for example, some of the core classes for freshmen and sophomores have hundreds of students.The largest class at HCC is around 60, and most classes have 30 students or less.
The community college campus is smaller and less overwhelming.Plus, because of class size, the students generally have more direct access to their professors.
CB: How have the demographics of undergraduate college students changed over the years you’ve been teaching?
JC: If I have seen any demographic change, it is in the number of non-traditional age students, and, sadly, the number of students who have full time jobs.
CB: Stories in the media recently have discussed a surge of cheating and plagiarism through the use of technology: cell phones, picture messaging, iPods, and the list goes on.To what extent have you found this to be an issue?How do you see the issue changing over time?
JC: I work closely enough with the students on their research papers that it is patently obvious when they have plagiarized because they cannot discuss with any ease the key ideas in their papers.Having said that, at USF, I typically submit papers to the university's plagiarism detection program, and it never fails to ferret out passages that I may have missed from students whom I would never have suspected.So technology works both ways!
In terms of electronic devices during tests, I now have to require students to turn off all cell phones, iPods, etc. and keep them out of sight.
CB: How has the recession affected your students and the field of education as a whole?
JC: Larger classes and older students.Recessions generally send people back to school.
CB: What advice can you give to college students and recent graduates preparing to enter the “real world”?
JC: Read.Think.Question.Resist immersion in television, video games, and, in general, the trance of technology.Don't be satisfied with the slick and superficial.Dig.Question again.Don't ever be afraid to challenge what you have been told.
Find one cause in which you have a genuine interest, and become actively involved in and with it.There is so much wrong in the world; however, if each of us can choose one or two wrongs to right, then we have done something of value.