They say those that can’t do, teach.
In total contradiction to that notion, part-time faculty at Cal State Fullerton immerse themselves in the best of both worlds: the professional world and the school world.
Through their diverse backgrounds, part-timers are able to bring new professional perspectives into the classroom.
Virginia Mintzlaff is a part-time professor at CSUF. She teaches about 12 to 15 units every semester in the Psychology Department. She said she teaches because it is something she has always enjoyed doing and because she loves “watching the lightbulb go on.”
In addition to teaching, she also has her own psychology practice where she sees about 20 patients a week for depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other issues.
“From my own personal experience as a student here and then teaching here, the part-timers have an awful lot to offer in that we oftentimes have outside interests that we bring and life experiences that we bring to the classroom,” said Mintzlaff.
Lisa Yamasaki, an American studies professor, is passionate about helping women and women’s issues. She has worked as a mammography and breast ultrasound technologist for the past 20 years, and teaches the Women in American Society course.
By working at a hospital, she has experienced working with people from different backgrounds. She said this has contributed to her comfort level of relating to people.
Gordon Capp has taught in the Special Education and Counseling departments and works in the field of social work doing therapy for children with disabilities and their families.
“I have been able to teach things that are really related to what I do in my practice of social work,” said Capp. “I really enjoy being able to bring in another perspective to students and offer them some challenges in different ways than they might get from other places.”
Capp said there are times when he does not have access to all of the services offered to professors by the school because he is so busy and is not able to be on campus as often.
He said a challenge of trying to do two things is that he cannot be in two places at once.
“You have to make priorities and you have to make choices about what you’re going to do,” he said.
Capp added that in terms of teaching, things have worked well.
Over time, he has learned about different systems that are in place to support instructors, such as where to get information about withdrawing from classes or simply getting forms for students.
“That’s the trick that’s really it. You have to think, ‘OK, I have an X amount of time and I need to accomplish this in that amount of time,” said Yamasaki. “You have to be much more structured in how you manage those things and somewhat disciplined in not trying to do too many things at the same time.”
In the end, what keeps professors coming back to teach at the university is the impact they make on students through the courses.
“Occasionally, I get that spark from a brilliant student—not just a good student, but a brilliant student—and that really keeps me involved emotionally,” said James Neuse, a psychology professor.
Yamasaki said the moment that impacted the way she felt about teaching was when an “A” student, who never said much in class, emailed her an “absolutely beautiful” email at the end of the semester thanking her for the impact that the class had on her.
“It gives me goosebumps to talk about it because I thought, OK I reached her in a way that I was reached when I took my first American studies course … I just thought OK I bit the hook immediately. This is where I belong, this is what I love,” said Yamasaki.