Part-time professors keep community classes going

Part-time instructors responsible for teaching bulk of college courses

Posted: Thursday, September 02, 2004

FAIRBANKS - It didn't look like a room full of college instructors.

Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker sat on the ground floor of the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Tanana Valley Campus a few feet away from disc jockey Glen Anderson, who was clad in shorts and flip-flops.

Across the table was Trev Mostella, who owns a home-brewing company.

Around them sat the assorted high school teachers, administrators, dental assistants, and Fairbanks professional people that make up the Tanana Valley Campus' adjunct faculty, the part-time instructors who are responsible for teaching the bulk of the college's courses.

"It's kind of the way the community college works," said TVC director Jake Poole. "You use the community to help teach the classes."

More than 80 people gathered at the TVC building Tuesday night for adjunct orientation, a sort of pep rally and information session to start off the school year. They represented about a fifth of the roughly 400 adjunct instructors at TVC, which only has 38 full-time faculty members.

Poole said the setup is partly a matter of financial necessity. Adjuncts don't accrue the same benefits as full-timers, and are paid about $2,550 to start to teach a three-credit class, which can go up to about $3,000 for experienced faculty.

He noted that adjuncts are also important because they offer students experience straight from the trenches of their professions.

"It puts the person who's doing the job day-to-day in the classroom teaching the students, firsthand, what it's like to be in that job, working in that subject matter," Poole said.

Perhaps the most prominent adjunct is Whitaker, who has been teaching business classes on and off for five years and is teaching a course this semester in contemporary management. The former state representative said he crams the class into his schedule because he enjoys it "tremendously" and learns a lot from it himself.

"I think every student brings new ideas to every class," he said. "At the end of the day you have a different perspective, and I think a better perspective."

Adjunct professors generally teach one course a semester, though a few teach two, and psychology instructor Jo Romine said she's teaching three this fall. Poole said the campus sometimes has to advertise for adjuncts in specific fields but most of the time the professors come to them.

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