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Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Bob DuBois

Dr. Bob DuBois, more commonly known as “Dr. Bob” around campus, is a proud first-generation college graduate. After having earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and philosophy and a master’s degree in industrial and organizational psychology from Western Kentucky University, he began what he calls the “show me the money” phase of his career. For years, Dr. Bob worked as an Industrial Organizational consultant in government, military-industrial, and manufacturing settings in Kentucky, Florida, and Texas, respectively, before starting his own consulting firm and franchise employment agency. However, Dr. Bob’s career was about to take a new turn. A client, an executive at the local community college, asked him if he would consider teaching a developmental psychology class at Tyler Junior College. “It changed the trajectory of my life,” he states.

Dr. Bob soon discovered that teaching at Tyler Junior College was surprisingly fun for him! As he began to receive positive feedback from students, he started to think generatively about “how I could pay forward my success and start helping those people eager to be their best too.”

“I saw my college self in my students: eager to learn and excel, but anxious that they might not have what it takes to succeed.” This only encouraged Dr. Bob to discover the strategies that have become the keys to his classroom success, like offering flexible office hours and customizing his curriculum for each class. This also led Dr. Bob to further his own education, as he went on to earn a master’s degree in counseling psychology from the University of Texas, Tyler; before three years later, selling his business, moving to Milwaukee to teach at Waukesha County Technical College, and ultimately earning a Ph.D. in educational psychology from Marquette University in Wisconsin.

“At Waukesha County Technical College, I grew and thrived,” reflects Dr. Bob. In addition to earning Instructor of the Year his first year on campus, he also developed a series of popular lifelong learning workshops, a book club, and a skills-based College Success Strategies course. Dr. Bob also served in key leadership roles for committees relevant to teaching and learning and online learning.

In 2019, he left WCTC for “a dream job opportunity at UT” to facilitate learning and help lead a top-tier undergraduate program in psychology. “I wanted the challenge and welcomed the warmer climate and mountains, the R1 campus community, and an opportunity to learn from esteemed colleagues. And I could not be more delighted with the outcome,” he states.

When asked about his teaching philosophy, Dr. Bob starts by offering a quote from his high school speech teacher, Cleomae Dungy: “Bob DuBois and God’s Army can accomplish anything!”

“As Mrs. Dungy modeled,” he explains, “I aim to be a learning facilitator who consistently demonstrates a sincere love of learning, a drive to see and develop the potential in everyone, unwavering devotion to helping others find and strive to achieve their purpose, and the humility to ask for and accept help from an experienced and loving coach.”

Dr. Bob also demonstrates this philosophy through the hallmarks of the courses he teaches, such as:

  • frequent opportunities for students to experience and further explore course concepts, foster critical thinking skills, and stimulate self-awareness and cognitive and socio-emotional growth through critical reflections, jigsaw classroom activities, purposeful observations, classroom discussions, special guest presentations, self-assessments, and feedback,
  • activities that inspire learners to share what they are learning with others via creative jigsaw classroom activities and showcases of current, evidence-based course content relevant to the career and life interests of students and the needs of their future customers and employers,
  • the development and dissemination of study resources, including low-stakes and no-stakes learning activities and materials, as well as a suite of lifelong learning workshops and a college success course devoted to helping students be and do their best,

“In the end, I strive to be an exemplary learning facilitator by inspiring my students like others have inspired me:  to transform students into lifelong learners and to see the value in applying and paying forward what they learn about human behavior in my classes to make a positive difference in their family, their community, and our world.”

When asked to share a highlight that has significantly impacted your career, Dr. Bob offered this anecdote:

“I would say a recent career highlight for me was receiving an email from a student who had just gotten into medical school. At the time, I received this letter of thanks from a student, I did not realize how large of an impact he had on my career. I later learned that this student had also submitted a beautiful letter of recommendation that had aided me in receiving the Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence earlier that year. I have the letter now and look back on it often. This quote really resonated with me:

‘What sets great professors apart is their ability to understand and empathize with students, as well as allow for open and transparent communication to let students confide in their professors about what may be going on in their life. Yes, Dr. Bob is honest and fair in all of his classes and with his grading, but he exemplifies this idea of showing compassion towards his students. He encouraged mental health and wellness over everything.

 These four years have been the most challenging times of my life, and I honestly do not know where I would have ended up if I hadn’t met Dr. Bob. In my sophomore year, one of my best friends from my childhood committed suicide. I was not coping, and emotionally I was a wreck; I skipped classes for the first time and missed every class assignment. I have always had a challenging time asking for help, but I was quickly going to fall behind, and I wouldn’t have been able to pick myself back up on my own. Most of my professors had no idea, but Dr. Bob noticed immediately and took time out of his evening to have an emergency Zoom meeting with me. He called 974-help to get me the help I needed to continue and finish the semester so I could grieve my friend.           

Anyone who has taken Dr. Bob knows him as an approachable, dependable, and nurturing professor—including myself. I cannot imagine a more well-rounded and inspiring professor for this award.’

Letters like these are what encourage Dr. Bob to continue his work as a learning facilitator. “I try hard to remain connected with many of my learners from Texas to Wisconsin and Tennessee, and I am incredibly proud of their life and career achievements,” he reflects happily.

When asked to share some final thoughts on his teaching, Dr. Bob offers words of immense gratitude. “My life has been full of professional celebrations,” he starts, “Being the first of my family to graduate college, embarking on a career in IO, starting a successful business, earning a Ph.D., excelling as a community college learning facilitator, and now excelling at UTK. But nothing beats knowing that your efforts have positively impacted not only your family’s future but the future of others you have served across your precious time on Earth.”

For Dr. Bob, the future of his educational field means to build upon the progress he’s seen in the classroom already: saying yes when given opportunities to help; doing his part to grow as a learning facilitator; transforming his students into learners; and advocating for positive supporting structures and resources that help all – and especially the least of us – to be their best. “As The Beatles wisely shared,” he concludes, “‘All you need is love.’”