Meet this week’s Campus Celebrity, Professor Carol Begley. Learn more about her teaching experience at St. Michael’s College, but also advice for future educators! If you haven’t taken a class with Professor Carol Begley yet, I would highly suggest checking her classes out!
Her Campus: How long have you been teaching at St. Michael’s College?
Carol Begley: This is my 11th year of teaching at St. Michael’s, though even before 2006, I taught a course now and then when there was a need in the Classics Department.
HC: What’s your favorite part about teaching? Why did you start teaching?
CB: To study demanding subjects is to develop intellectual muscles. Then, using those intellectual muscles to study the Humanities—philosophy, literature, history, and languages—is like climbing a mountain and being rewarded with a panoramic view of the awe-inspiring beauty of human accomplishment. I am very grateful for the chance to act as a sort of “intellectual trainer,” helping my students strengthen those muscles and guiding them, if possible, in the ascent up the mountain. And then, too, I benefit from our “workouts,” because my students always help me go higher and see more. At the risk of using a cliché, I started teaching because learning was such a joy that I wanted to share it.
HC: What’s your favorite part about teaching at St. Mike’s?
CB: St. Michael’s is a wonderful, warm community. There are many, many professors here who are deeply devoted to their teaching and their students, and this is inspiring. And the students I have taught have been delightful to work with. One thing I have appreciated is that many students say “thank you” as they leave the classroom; I am so touched by this.
HC: Who inspires you the most?
CB: Oh dear… “inspires” isn’t hard, but “inspires THE MOST”? Always in the background (though he is no longer living) is Prof. John M. Crossett, my mentor at Cornell College in Iowa. Living inspirations include my husband, Ron Begley (who teaches here at St. Michael’s), and our great friend Larry Goldberg (at the UNC-Chapel Hill). All three inspire me to try to use a dialectical approach as much as possible, to draw students to think things through and talk about what they see after careful reading.
HC: Have you ever taught at another college? If so, how is St. Mike’s different from that school?
CB: I have taught (long ago) at UNC-Chapel Hill, the University of Houston, and at Cornell College. Saint Michael’s is of course much smaller than the two universities, so there is much more of a conversation among the disciplines here than there could be at the big places. St. Michael’s is much more like Cornell College, but I was at Cornell so long ago that I think any differences are really the result of the passage of time. I think students at all colleges now are more or less encouraged to live at a much more hectic pace than students were thirty years ago. In general, it seems to me that students in the 21st century do not have enough time to contemplate or reflect on what they are studying.
HC: What was your first teaching job?
CB: I taught Latin as a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Each office was shared by several teaching assistants, so we compared notes and shared ideas. It was great fun.
HC: What advice would you give to students who want to become a teacher/professor?
CB: I would encourage students to read as widely as they have time for and to take courses in many disciplines. Graduate school is a time of intense specialization, so undergraduate days are for developing breadth of knowledge and experience, and that breadth will make them better and more confident teachers (as well as better citizens).