Bob Dougherty has played a vital role in the success of the College of Professional and Continuing Studies for nearly three decades — first as a foundation of the college’s Information Technology department, and for the last 22 years, developing and teaching courses. Currently serving as the director of information technology within PACS, as well as an adjunct instructor, he makes an impact of the lives of faculty, staff and students on a daily basis.
Recently, we had a chance to catch up with Bob about his career in both IT and as an instructor.
How long have you worked for PACS?
This is my 29th year with the college. My hire date was August 17, 1992.
Tell us a little more about your education, professional background and experience, including what you do outside of teaching for PACS.
I have a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from OU. My graduate degree is in Interdisciplinary Studies, and I got it from this college. This is my 37th year in IT support, and my 22nd year of teaching and developing courses. I was the technical support lead for the first online course ever taught at OU in 1998. I am glad I received my master’s degree in a non-technical area. Broadening my horizons makes me a better IT support person and a better faculty member. My outside interests include sports, cards, chess, movie history, volunteer work in the metro area, and I like to spend time with my godchildren whenever I can.
What is your favorite thing about being an instructor at OU?
That is an easy one. It is when the “light bulb” moment happens for a student you are teaching. From that moment on, for that student, education will never again be about memorizing things to repeat back on a test or reading a book or article to write an essay on. They have really figured out that learning new things genuinely benefits them, even things that do not directly apply to them. It is transformational. If you are an educator, that is the best moment in life.
What is your best teaching tip for other instructors?
If a student really messes up on a writing assignment, give them a chance to re-write it instead of giving them a failing grade. The key to success is requesting the re-write in such a way that the student knows you really care. Here is some phraseology that I use: “Before I grade this assignment, I need to ask you to re-write it. Your success in this course and this program is very important to me, and I do not want this one assignment to bring your overall course grade way down, or for you to move forward and make this type of mistake in future writing assignments.” By doing this, the student will really see you (the Instructor) as someone who is genuinely trying to help them to be successful. In my teaching career, doing that one thing has led to more student success stories than anything else.
What advice would you give to other instructors for balancing teaching and other responsibilities?
Make a point to get up early every day and find a favorite spot to watch the sun rise each morning. Be thankful that you have been given another day to play a role in transforming people’s lives for the better through education. No matter what job we have here at OU, we are all part of this great thing where we get to educate students, who can, in turn, pass the torch to the next generation. If you get a good start to your day, the rest of the day usually goes pretty well.
What is your favorite course to teach?
LSTD 3003 - Interdisciplinary Inquiry. In one of my answers above, I mentioned the transformational “light bulb” moment for students, where they suddenly see education differently. I have had that happen more in this course than any other.
Is there a student or class that has influenced or made an impact on your life in any way?
In the early 2000s, I was teaching a concentrated, two-week, on-site seminar. Every day after class ended, this one student would come up after each class and spend about an hour wanting to go over all the notes and lectures for that day. After day four, I told her that I was glad to stay and answer as many questions as she had. That was my job. However, I did not want her to over-worry. She was doing well in the class, and if she kept it up, she would end up with a good grade. She went on to tell me this story about how this was her third attempt at college, and she was worried that if she couldn’t make it work this time, that some of her dreams would never come true.
That student went on to get both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from our college.
Shortly after she graduated, I received a wedding invitation in the mail from her. I thought this was the coolest thing. I had never been invited to a student’s wedding, so I immediately filled out the RSVP card and mailed it in. When I got to the wedding, I signed the guest book. Her sister was behind the table. She immediately knew who I was and made a big deal about me and called over her mother and some other family friends and introduced me. In fact, everyone I met at that wedding knew who I was, and they knew all about the story of how I spent an extra hour after each class period helping her with the course material. It was a very humbling experience. It was at that wedding that I truly realized what a positive impact we can have on a student’s life as a faculty member. We also forget sometimes that whole families are rooting for our students to succeed.
Anything else you’d like us to know?
Never be in a hurry. Do everything in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything, even if your whole world seems upset.
Each quarter, the College of Professional and Continuing Studies recognizes a faculty member for their course expertise and contributions to an exceptional student experience. Recipients are evaluated on their course engagement and utilization of best practices, based on the PACS online teaching evaluation rubric and student feedback.