Professor applies course concepts outside the classroom


Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Jennifer Mize Smith

Written by: Lauren Cunningham

The teaching philosophy of Dr. Jennifer Mize Smith is one that was shared with her by one of her Western Kentucky University professors nearly 20 years ago: “prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.”

“My goal as a teacher is not merely to impart content knowledge, but to construct an engaging learning environment in which students can enhance their critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and presentational skills, all while becoming aware of and engaged in the world around them,” said Dr. Jennifer Mize Smith.

Dr. Mize Smith received her doctorate degree in Communication at Purdue University in 2006 and has been an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at WKU for seven years.  Dr. Mize Smith is intentional about integrating some form of service-learning into all of her courses since she began teaching; therefore, The $100 Solution™ was a natural fit for her classes.

When asked the about importance of service-learning to classroom, Dr. Mize Smith shared three points: “First, service-learning is a commitment on the part of both professor and student.  In the classroom, I strive to continuously display my belief in and commitment to helping students apply their course concepts outside of our classroom walls.  Student feedback has shown that they learn and better retain the course material that is directly used in their service learning projects.  I think they appreciate having the opportunity to practice what they are learning in ‘real’ contexts, but I also know that I must continually remind them of its importance.  Secondly, service-learning can be challenging, time consuming, and sometimes frustrating.  It’s my job to keep the end goal in front of them and to provide the necessary time, resources, and motivation along the way.  So while I am their teacher who provides informational and instrumental support, I am also their cheerleader and offer emotional support during both the triumphs and challenges of the project.  In both situations, I try to help them make sense of their situation and the meaningful lessons that can be learned in the process.  Finally, service-learning has benefits for the students long after the semester is over, but they may not realize that on their own.  I try to keep them connected by showing them how their experience and skills are transferable to their future jobs and careers.  Through a written assignment, I help them articulate what they have learned from service learning and how they might draw upon their experience during job interviews.  I have no doubt that most potential employers will be interested in concrete examples of teamwork, problem solving, collaboration, critical thinking, budgeting, conflict management, leadership, accountability, and community development.  I believe students will be more connected to the project if they understand the long-term benefits—those that reach beyond the immediate good feelings and a course grade.”


 [BR1]Any closing remarks?


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