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Interim Chancellor Guskiewicz goes back to the classroom

Interim Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz meets with Buck Goldstein at South Building on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. March 11, 2019. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

The University’s Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz is heading back into the classroom this fall. 

Guskiewicz will be co-teaching a graduate level course with Buck Goldstein, professor of the practice in the Department of Economics and University Entrepreneur in Residence, to assist Ph.D. students who plan on entering academia upon graduation. 

Up to 20 graduate students will meet weekly in South Building on Tuesday afternoons for the three-credit course which is being offered for the first time this upcoming fall semester: IDST-890 The American Professoriate.

The focus of the class is to help doctoral students understand the history and challenges related to American higher education, and then provide them with practical skills they will need to be successful in academia. 

Goldstein said that the book he co-wrote with former UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp, "Our Higher Calling: Rebuilding the Partnership Between America and its Colleges and Universities," will be used to at least get the conversation going on some of the issues facing individuals in higher education. 

“The premise of the class is that although many of these students are very well trained in their discipline, they aren’t particularly well trained or getting the level of help they need in two areas," Goldstein said. "One is the sort of big issues that are facing higher ed, because if you're wading into academia, there are a series of issues that you need to at least be familiar with that have to deal with equity, access, admissions, sports, student life (and) a variety of other key issues."

Goldstein said there are also practical skills such as job letters, interviews and other tasks crucial to the transition from doctoral candidate to faculty member. 

Guskiewicz and Goldstein plan on inviting guest speakers and leaders in American higher education to visit class. 

Guskiewicz, a member of UNC’s faculty since 1995, was appointed as the University’s interim Chancellor in February. A Kenan Distinguished Professor of Exercise and Sport Science, the Chancellor is a neuroscientist, internationally recognized expert on sport-related concussions, founding co-director of the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center and director of the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes. 

He also holds positions in the Department of Orthopaedics, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center and a doctoral program in human movement science.

“I’m excited. I miss the classroom, and while I recognize this will be a once a week opportunity to spend some time with students, it will be great,” Guskiewicz said. “But I will say I also do a lot of guest lecturing still around my area of research in concussion, sport concussion. So, I had a great time teaching in this past fall. I taught two or three class session meetings: one in psychology, one in our sports medicine program and one, I think, in statistics back maybe two semesters ago.”

The Chancellor said he hopes his decision to teach will help doctoral students and better prepare them for life in the academic world. 

“I think it’s important not to forget our roots, where we came from,” Guskiewicz said. “... I’ve taught in a number of different ways while here at UNC: large lecture classes, small seminar classes, to mentoring hundreds of students in research laboratory. I think there are different versions of teaching and mentoring, and I just have always (found) it’s rewarding.”

Undergraduate students are also recognizing the value in the Chancellor’s decision to teach next fall. 

“I think the Chancellor’s move to go back to the classroom says a lot about him and his character and how he values the in-person relationship with the students and not just working from an administrative role in the office behind the scenes,” said Brandon Bedell, a first-year chemistry major.

Guskiewicz won’t be the first chancellor to teach while appointed to an administrative position on our campus. Thorp, who taught an Introduction to Entrepreneurship course during his tenure as chancellor, and Former Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Winston Crisp, who taught Advanced Leadership Development, are among the many who chose to make time for teaching and administrative roles while in office.

Goldstein said he hopes Guskiewicz going to the classroom will inspire other faculty members on campus to go back to the classroom and teach, in addition to their additional scholarly pursuits. He did point out, however, that most people at UNC who are qualified to teach choose to teach, which he said speaks to the importance most faculty-members recognize in the teaching profession.

“I think Kevin and I both believe that to the extent possible, everyone should teach,” Goldstein said. “And that as people come to a campus, and they meet professors and they are impressed by their work they almost inevitably say ‘Well that’s really great. What do they teach?’ And the answer ‘They don’t teach,’ is not a very good one because teaching is a really important part of our mission.”  

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