Scranton Welcomes New Biology Professor to Campus

If you’re a returning student, the start of a new school year is filled with familiar faces. Although we recognize first-years and transfer students, we don’t often don’t think about another group that is just settling in: newly hired faculty.

Dr. Galen performs research in Alaska on the study of birds and parasites.

Spencer Galen, Ph.D. is one of those new professors. He teaches General Biology and General Physiology Lab at Scranton. This is his first full-time job as a professor.

“It has been a dream of mine to become a professor for many years,” Dr. Galen said, “It is thrilling to finally be living that reality.”

This semester, Dr. Galen is teaching both of his classes with a hybrid method of some in-person meetings and some online. Dr. Galen said he wanted to have some in-person interaction while also reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission for both his students and himself.

“My thought was that hybrid teaching would be a good balance between these two goals, though it has not been without challenges,” Dr. Galen said.

The current situation has made Dr. Galen more aware of his students’ varying needs.

“Some people have been affected more than others by the pandemic,” Dr. Galen said, “I have tried to keep that in mind this semester.”

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Perspectives on Virtual and In-person Classes

Administration at The University of Scranton implemented a two-week pause in in-person instruction beginning on Sept. 19 and ended Sept. 30.

Both students and faculty were excited to get back in the classroom.

Professor Strain is a communications professor who teaches several classes ranging from a first-year seminar to a 300-level political communication course.

Professor Strain

Strain enjoys being face-to-face because it offers a type of connection that being online cannot match.

“There is nothing like the vibe and energy of being face-to-face with a group of students and engaging one another in some interesting and intense discussion,” Strain said.

He also said there are some challenges to face this semester, including lecturing with a mask on and trying to teach to both an in-class group of students and to those who have to attend class through Zoom because they are in quarantine.

“Effectively communicating with both sets of students is far more challenging than I thought, and I knew it wouldn’t be easy,” Strain said.

Professor Strain teaching one of his classes both in-person and through zoom.

Professor Strain said he has been proactive in trying to keep in touch with his students during the uncertain times. Not only does he maintain communication with his students, but he also just likes to check in on them.

“I have been more proactive than ever trying to maintain consistent communication with students,” Strain said. “[S]tudents learning remotely need to feel like they are still part of the class in every way, so my outreach is more consistent and focused than ever before.”

He aims to be there for his students so they know they have someone to talk to or to motivate them when things get tough. He said he is proud of them.

“I am more optimistic than ever that we will get through the semester without more campus shutdowns,” Strain said, “I’m proud of our students [for adapting] to life in COVID-19 America.”

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Scranton Clubs Recruit with Online Activities Fair

Every fall, the University of Scranton holds an Activities Fair for students to explore the various clubs and club sports offered on campus.

This year, the activities fair was online to adhere to social distancing. Clubs and club sports registered for an hour time slot between 12-3 p.m. on Sept. 12, 2020. First-year students and upperclassmen that were interested in a certain club joined the Zoom meetings to talk with the club officers and get some general information.

Patricia Cummings, program coordinator for the Center for Student Engagement, helped organize the event. Cummings said the club fair was very successful with over 400 students in attendance.

“At our typical outdoor club fair…we might have closer to 500 [students],” Cummings said. “Four hundred [students] is a success for us, especially given the online nature of the event.”

Students attending the fair were eligible to receive prizes such as a $50 Amazon gift card and even some Scranton apparel. Clubs were also eligible to win prizes, too. Cummings said she received positive feedback from students and club leaders.

“Students were very excited about [the] prizes,” Cummings said. “Club leaders had great [one-on-one] conversations with students.”

In past years, students would walk past club tables and sign their names and not have a conversation with the club leaders. This year, students tended to stay in the Zoom meetings and talk directly to club officers.

Rachel Smith, a senior biology major with a concentration in nutrition, is president of the Biology Club on campus. Continue reading