President steps in as seminar teacher

Here’s one class where a student’s grades won’t be too far from the president’s desk.

Keith Taylor, Ph.D., now teaches an occupational therapy first-year seminar in addition to his more familiar role as Gannon University’s president.

Taylor’s curriculum – “Life in Balance, a Global Perspective” – introduces students to the Gannon community as well as to the diversity of world cultures and the similarities all human beings share. It also aids students in their transition to college living while challenging them to make the best of their education through study, service and participating in campus activities.

Taylor teaches the class in conjunction with Valerie Bacik, Gannon’s director of Planning and Strategic Initiatives.  The course was created to support this year’s university theme – “embracing global awareness” – and to emphasize the importance of balancing one’s health and commitments.

Taylor began discussing the idea of reentering the classroom five years ago with Bacik while he was still Gannon’s provost and vice president of academic affairs.

Taylor said he is happy to finally have the chance to teach again. He views the seminar as an opportunity to do what he loves and to more closely connect with students.

“I taught for 20 years and I’m a faculty member at heart,” Taylor said. “I want to spend time with students; this gives me another way to engage with them, find out what’s on their minds and help them along their path.”

Taylor said he hopes his students will take several lessons from his course with them on their paths: an awareness of cultures, an understanding of self and, most importantly, “how not only to balance life, but how to enjoy it while living it.”

Ashley Mann, a freshman occupational therapy student in Taylor’s seminar, said she enjoys Taylor’s teaching.

“It is interesting to see how he differs in the classroom as opposed to his presidential duties,” Mann said.

Across campus, many of Gannon’s students are wondering what it would be like to have the university’s president as a professor.

“He’s always really friendly in the halls and I would like to hear more from him,” Amanda Green, a senior accounting major, said.

Brendan Kirkwood, a sophomore physician assistant major, said he would be excited to be in Taylor’s class.

“If I was in it, I could get to know his personality more, and it would help him understand students and how busy we get,” he said.

Some other students, on the other hand, disagreed, and said that having Taylor for a course would be “intimidating” or even “scary.”

However, Taylor hopes his students will view him just as they would any other professor.

“From my perspective, teaching is teaching,” he said. “In my mind, I am not the president in class; I am a faculty member in class. I hope the students just see me as a faculty member teaching.”

Whether he is acting as president or as a regular faculty member, Taylor said he is thankful to be simply on campus and in the classroom with students. He’s also glad to help emphasize Gannon’s value of teaching and sees this year at Gannon as another opportunity for students and faculty to “learn about life balance together.”

 

PETER MESSINA

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