The Basement Office Interviews - Samuel Wallace

By Dr. David Kowalski, Associate Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness & Strategic Innovation
Associate Professor of Geography and the Program Coordinator for Honors Programs and Environmental Studies Samuel Wallace shares his experience with transitioning to online teaching and working from home.

Associate Professor of Geography and the Program Coordinator for Honors Programs and Environmental Studies Samuel Wallace shares his experience with transitioning to online teaching and working from home.

This interview series looks at how our colleagues are dealing with these extraordinary times both in and out of the classroom. To stave off future questions, they were, in fact, conducted from my basement.

Full Name and Title? Samuel Clay Wallace, Associate Professor of Geography, Program Samuel WallaceCoordinator for Honors Programs and Environmental Studies

How many years have you been at Montco? I started at Montco in 1998, and was hired full time in January 2006.

How are you handling working from home? The creative part of my job is going just as well from home as in the office, but grading and administrative tasks are more difficult. I miss the interaction with students.

Do you have any strategies for striking a work/life balance in the current environment? None that I wasn't already using. I get to work at the same time as usual, am most creative in the mornings, take a break in the early afternoon once the boyfriend is up and about, then edit in the afternoon while he's on conference calls. I volunteer at an "essential" service at least three hours a week and make a point of leaving the house at least every 48 hours.

What do you miss most about being on campus? I most miss the students. I can't read their faces for boredom or questions. I can't get any spark off their learning. I also miss access to student records-- it's nearly impossible to do any advising.

Would you say that the lack of student interaction has been the biggest challenge in your classes since the move to remote learning? How are you dealing with it? Yes, I've taught hybrid courses before, but now I don't even see students occasionally. I've taught video courses where I never met the students, and that was easier than losing contact. I'm not dealing with it well -- we're doubly hit with this being the spring. In fall, student participation falls off more gradually. In spring, it's normal to lose students at Spring Break, but this is even worse with it hitting one day before break.

Is there one thing you’re doing now that you feel is really helping your students successfully make it through this time? I don't have enough information back to tell, yet.

As a researcher, I appreciate that statement. The few students I've heard from on it say that my videos are really good. I use PPT to basically animate images. My PPT slides contain very little text. I did lose the ability to write on the slides with the smart boards, but by duplicating the slides, and then animating them, I can suggest my writing and drawing.  I can also do live "how to" demos for the exercises.

How about on the flip side? What’s one thing your students are doing to help you successfully make it through? I appreciate it when my students email me directly. The Blackboard Discussion Board would be more useful for the class, but the direct emails still feel more like a conversation to me.

First thing you’ll do post social distancing? Go swimming?  Go down to DC to protest?

Face mask preference: wearing a bandana like a Wild West outlaw or a medical mask? The boyfriend gets medical masks at his Cancer Center. I get medical masks at my food service volunteer gig. It's masks by default. Also, since I wear glasses, the surgical (ear loop) masks conform to my nose better and won't interfere with my sight.

Approximate number of walks you have taken since this started? 4.5 weeks, 5 walks/week, 22?  But I lived in Center City, not the 'burbs, so walking was normal for me.

Have you ever had students in your course who thought they were signing up for Geology? Yes, and many colleagues who can't tell the difference. The bigger problem I have with my discipline is that too many people think of Geography as names and places and trivia, not the discipline of thinking about how things change through space.

I find it very heartening to hear so many stories of people helping each other at the College during this transition. Do you want to embarrass anyone at the College by singling them out for praise? I'm glad the IT guys were out in the parking lot handing out laptops. I'm glad that the older support staff were still willing to risk the health of their partners by coming into work. I'm glad that the Advisors and Counselors figured out some way to help students without violating their privacy.

Any inaccuracies in the above are the fault of my transcription or edits…unless the interviewee lied to me…in which case it’s totally on that individual.  

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