Back To School

Laura Kirchner

With many of us still sitting in lecture halls and scribbling down notes at our teachers whim, would any of us imagine we would one day become a professor standing before our own Villanova classroom? This thought may be surprising, but many Villanova graduates have returned to their alma mater to teach in classrooms in which they once sat as students.

An array of professors, whether full-time or adjunct, have decided to return, many based on their own personal experiences when they attended Villanova. Dr. Mary Kelly, an Economics professor and a 1983 graduate, worked for other corporations for 14 years before returning to Villanova as a professor in the 1990s.

“I enjoyed working in a corporate setting,” she says, “However, once I had children, I found that I wanted a career which would allow me to have more of a work-life balance. I loved academia and Villanova, in particular.”

Many are able to use their previous or current connections from their undergraduate or graduate experience here at ‘Nova to help them back into the swing of things.

Kelly made a phone call to the chair of the economics department, also the chair of the department during Kelly’s time, who was more than happy to offer her a teaching position. “Once I started [teaching] I was hooked,” she says.

R. Edel Lukens, a Villanova mathematics professor, was tutoring math out of her own home when she received a phone call from Dr. Klaus Volpert, who remembered her from her masters education at Villanova six years prior. She wasn’t looking for a position at the time, but happily decided to return. Because it had been only a few years since her graduation, Lukens was very comfortable returning and working with the staff that had taught her only a short while before.

A newcomer to the teaching scene, Jason Dobies, who graduated in 2001 with a computer science degree, really felt the yearning to return to teach and give back to the department to which he became very close over the years. He still keeps in contact with under his graduate adviser, Dr. Lillian Cassell of the computer science department.

“She gave me so much general life advice, and still does today – now I know how right she was about the real world,” Dobies says.

Dobies teaches one class per week on top of his full-time job despite the hour commute from his hometown. He explains that many of his students enjoy the real-life experience that he brings from his job, and he feels he is much better at explaining textbook material by relating it to situations he encounters everyday.

He now realizes how much teachers can truly see when standing in the front of the classroom.

“You see so much more when you’re standing up front, from texting, to the kid snoozing in the back – all the things I occasionally thought I got away with,” Dobies says.

As Kelly’s children grow close in age to her present Villanova students, she can hardly believe that her Villanova experience has come full circle.

“On many occasions, I share with my children things students do that impress me.” Kelly says, “It is my hope that they benefit from some of those lessons. Ironically, I think teaching has helped me become a better parent.”

For Lukens, the transition was very easy from student to teacher, since she was a teaching assistant when she was a graduate student at Villanova. Influential in her decision to return, in addition to Klaus, was Assistant Dean Robort, whom many students in the liberal arts school have as an adviser today.

“Both were really awesome professors, I felt honored to become a part of the faculty that they were on,” Luken says.