Jennifer Gatlin is the OU College of Professional and Continuing Studies faculty member honoree for the second quarter of 2022. Gatlin has been an adjunct faculty member for PACS since 2013 and regularly teaches LSTD 3071 Life Design 101 and LSTD 3083 Life Design: A Better You. Gatlin serves in the same role with Southern New Hampshire University and Oklahoma City Community College, while also contributing as a course developer for PACS.
How long have you worked for PACS?
I have been affiliated with PACS in multiple capacities since 2004… wow, almost 20 years! But specifically, I’ve been an adjunct professor with the college since 2013.
Tell us a little more about your education, professional background and experience, including what you do outside of teaching for PACS.
Sometimes, I feel like a walking posterboard for PACS! I began my professional journey in higher education in 2004, when I accepted a position as the receptionist for the College of Liberal Studies, which, as you know, would later become PACS. Little did I know, that would open the door for so many more opportunities as the years would unfold. While I only had a few college credits to my name when I began working for the college, during my tenure, I completed my undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice here at PACS, and then went on to earn my Master’s in Human Relations through Advanced Programs at the Norman site.
Throughout my time with PACS, I’ve held positions in Student Support Services and Advising. I’ve also been an admissions counselor at OU Graduate Admissions, and the assistant director of admissions for Western Oklahoma State College in Altus. About 3 years ago, I transitioned out of PACS Advising to pursue adjunct work exclusively, teaching here at PACS and also at Southern New Hampshire University. Most recently, I’ve also teamed up as a consultant with the PACS Curriculum Services team, and I am assisting with some new and exciting projects they’re working on!
Outside of the world of higher education, I’ve just recently started making handmade soaps, wax melts, candles and laundry detergent as a creative outlet! I’ve named my little business Red Dirt Bubbles, which is a nod to our Oklahoma red dirt and my nickname—Bubbles, or “B”—that I’ve toted for the past few decades. I’ve been having a lot of fun on this new adventure, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes over the coming months and years!
"My favorite thing about being an instructor at OU, and specifically PACS, is the unique connections that I’m able to make with students. I think that many people have a preconceived notion that online courses are clinical and disconnected. My experience couldn’t be farther from that train of thought!"
What is your favorite thing about being an instructor at OU?
My favorite thing about being an instructor at OU, and specifically PACS, is the unique connections that I’m able to make with students. I think that many people have a preconceived notion that online courses are clinical and disconnected. My experience couldn’t be farther from that train of thought! I believe I have a unique opportunity to get to know my students on a level that many don’t who see them face-to-face because the very nature of the courses I teach requires a certain level of bravery and vulnerability on their part that I hold very dear. I can truly hear their voice come through their work, and I appreciate the glimpses of life that they elect to share with me. The experience is profound, to say the least!
What is your best teaching tip for other instructors?
I have two that I really live by:
- Get – and use – a good planner! Take a few minutes before each term kicks off to map out upcoming assignments, deadlines, etc., to give yourself a visual aid as you work through the term. There’s a definite difference in weeks that I use the planner and when I don’t. Use the planner!
- Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through! Being relatable is paramount in an online format, and the best way to be relatable is to be authentic. Write your announcements like you speak, share your own experiences to help relate the course content to real-world scenarios, Make an awkward video announcement or two! It’s worth the time and effort, I promise.
What advice would you give to other instructors, for balancing teaching and other responsibilities?
See Item 1 above! Making use of a planner and keeping it close by at my workstation has been a huge help for me as I balance my outside responsibilities and teaching. While my main role right now is teaching, I juggle multiple courses and projects each term, and they don’t operate on the same timelines. I also keep up with a busy sports and social calendar for my children. The planner keeps us all in line when properly utilized! When not properly utilized, let’s just say I’ve been known to fly out the door to pick up the kid I forgot was at an after-school function. My dust cloud barely settled as they open the doors to head to the car.
What is your favorite course to teach?
It’s really close. LSTD 3071 Life Design 101 and LSTD 3083 Life Design: A Better You are the two courses that I’ve developed and teach most often. If I had to pick a favorite, I think that Life Design: A Better You wins by a nose! In that class, the rubber meets the road, and students actually get out and do things to create a more impactful and immersive learning experience as they make their way through the course. The ways that they describe the experience is truly moving, and I think it makes a lasting impression on their lives and the lives of others!
Is there a student or class that has influenced or made an impact on your life in any way?
I know it sounds cliché, but I am truly inspired by students in my classes each and every term. The stories that they tell, the obstacles they’ve overcome, the dreams that they have and are working hard toward every single day… I am humbled to get to be a part of their journey.
I make real connections with the students in my courses and have a chance to stay in touch with my students through social media, text and even Christmas cards. I’ve even teamed up with a former student in my soaping adventures. She works for a small soap supply company, and when I learned that, I reached out to ask if she would like to collaborate with me as I began this journey. She agreed and has been an incredible asset in building my brand! It’s been wonderful catching up and getting to know her on a new level. We’re making an outstanding team, if I do say so myself!
What advice do you have for adult students returning to school?
My personal motto is you can do anything for eight weeks. Carve out time each day, even if it’s only 45 minutes, to read or make some headway on a writing assignment. The more you can do incrementally throughout the week, the better off you’ll be as your deadlines approach. I did not take my own advice when I was an adult student, and if I could do it all over again, I’d do things differently and pace myself!
Each quarter, the College of Professional and Continuing Studies recognizes a faculty member for their course expertise and contributions to an exceptional student experience.