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Professors sound off on why they do what they do – by Paige Buffington

Submitted by Sarah DeClerk on November 12, 2013 – 2:10 pmNo Comment

Teachers may search for ways to motivate students, but what keeps a college professor passionate about teaching, semester after semester and year after year?  

Not one faculty member that was interviewed could find anything negative to say.  All seemed to share a passion for three things: people, learning and research, and sharing knowledge with others.

Amar Kanekar, an assistant professor in the Department of Health, Human Performance and Sport Management, said he had not always planned on being a professor. Imagine signing up for one of his classes – Community Health Agency, Controversial Issues in Health Education or Evaluation of Health Programs – and then discovering that he is trained as a physician.  It was while he did his three year residency in Mumbai, India, his home country, that his love for teaching emerged.  There, he taught a few classes to medical school students and to other doctors who were working on their residency requirements.  Teaching, combined with lengthy reading sessions spent studying scientific research from all disciplines, gradually led him to realize that he would take a slightly different career path.

He felt inspired to understand the problems and to contribute solutions regarding global health issues.  By 2004, he had moved to the U.S. and enrolled in graduate school.  He received his Ph.D. in health promotion and health education from the University of Cincinnati.  He has been at UALR for two years.

Kanekar said he loves research.  His interest in research gives him the opportunity to look for new ways to solve health issues that impact our world. Kanekar said he has not yet reached his biggest professional accomplishment. He said he is aiming to make a contribution to new knowledge in the Public Health arena and hopes to be able to generate something useful and creative to the body of research on global health issues. The biggest of those issues, he said, are HIV, malnourishment and obesity.

Like Raymond Ortega, visiting professor in the Department of Counseling, Adult & Rehabilitation Education, Kanekar said he believes online teaching is a great improvement in the college environment. “Online courses are an improvement and a good model for teaching.  Less face to face is ok,” he said.

Other professors disagree, however. Cheryl Johnston, instructor, and Avinash Thombre, associate professor, both located in the Department of Speech Communication, said they prefer teaching to a “live” audience rather than online.  Johnston said she prefers “face to face” classes. “I love my students, and I enjoy teaching,” she said.

“I don’t think there is a better job than teaching,” said Thombre, who specializes in health communication, intercultural communication, new technologies and social impact, diffusion of innovations, and entertainment education.  He said he views his first career as a journalist in India as a sub-field of communication, and what he does now as “working in the ‘Mother-field’ of Communication.”

But what philosophy keeps a professor going day after day? When asked this question Kanekar’s eyes lit up and he smiled warmly. “My philosophy is to do whatever makes me and keeps me happy,” he said.

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