Faculty Spotlight - Celene Lillie


Faculty Spotlight - Celene Lillie

Celene Lillie, Ph.D., is the OU College of Professional and Continuing Studies faculty member honoree for the fourth quarter of 2021. Lillie has been an adjunct faculty member for PACS since the fall of 2020 and regularly teaches LSTD 4173, Women in the Bible and Qur’an.

Tell us a little more about your education, professional background and experience, including what you do outside of teaching for PACS.

I have a Ph.D. in New Testament and Early Christian History. I work a lot with feminist and post-colonial methodologies, and my work often focuses on intersections between women, colonization and violence.  I am an adjunct professor at three universities and am also helping create an online academy for the Westar Institute. So, work keeps me very busy.

What is your favorite thing about being an instructor at OU?

I have loved the challenge of creating a community in an asynchronous environment where I don’t see students face to face in real-time. I find it amazing how much richness and engagement are possible in the online medium.

What is your best teaching tip for other instructors?

For me, sometimes the online environment can seem flat. So, I try to see students as complex, fleshed-out people and try to present myself the same way. This includes imagining the type of engagement we’d have in person and trying to convey that in emails, announcements and comments. I also try to remember that, in my in-person classes, my students see me three times a week. So, I ask the question: How do I need to communicate so that my online students feel like they have that kind of access to me?

What advice would you give to other instructors for balancing teaching and other responsibilities?

Because of my work schedule, I know there’s never enough time for everything. I make an effort to prioritize what’s really important and make sure those things don’t get left behind. For me, those are my daily meditation practice, eating dinner with my partner every night, and trying to get outside to walk and hike as much as possible. Sometimes there’s only the opportunity to take a five-minute walk or do a 10-minute meditation, but I always do SOMETHING. Ironically, it’s when I stop taking time to do these things that there never feels like enough hours in the day.

What is your favorite course to teach?

At OU, I teach Women in the Bible and Qur’an, and I really enjoy these materials every time I engage with them. I tend to focus on women and gender in most of the classes I teach, and this course always reminds me of my roots in these ancient texts and also provides me with ways to see new things in what are thought to be well-trodden paths.

Is there a student or class that has influenced or made an impact on your life in any way?

Rather than one, this question reminds me of so many of the students I’ve taught who have struggled through so much, particularly during the pandemic. Students have experienced loss, death, depression, anxiety, financial struggles and so much more. Somehow, in the midst of all of this, so many of them still show up, work so very hard and engage with the materials, themselves and their colleagues. Their tenacity inspires me and constantly calls me to be my fullest and best self in the classroom and beyond.

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.

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The College of Professional and Continuing Studies is a fully accredited academic unit of the University of Oklahoma, offering 100% online, hybrid and onsite degrees for working adults and non-traditional students.