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Faculty Forum

Dr. Jeffrey Michelman

• Director, Hicks Honors College

My first job in higher education after getting my Ph.D. was at Penn State. It was a big deal getting a position there, but I soon learned that the institutional focus wasn’t right for me. It was a large Research I university where faculty work came first. The students weren’t as important as the research. That wasn’t where I wanted to spend the rest of my career. The University of North Florida was that school. And it didn’t hurt that the weather was much better in Jacksonville.

 

I’m in year 25 at UNF, and I’m happy to say I’m just as excited to be a part of the campus community as I was during my first year here. I’m happy to work in a learning environment that puts students and their success first. The focus on small class sizes and accessible student-teacher ratios makes it possible for me to really engage with my students. That’s greatly important to me now as director of the University’s Honors Program.

 

Honors courses are different than normal undergraduate classes. There is less lecturing and more discussion in the classroom, which makes having a smaller, more intimate, class setting that much more important. The courses take a deeper look into their subject matter and require a tremendous amount of student engagement. Instead of just teaching a class and delivering a lecture, I’m facilitating discussions. You could say this isn’t the same old business school education.

 

That style of teaching means I spend more time with every student. During the semester I meet with each of my students for 30 minutes as a sort of progress check-in. I like to see where they are and let them know how they’re doing. That’s the kind of relationship we want students in the Honors Program to have with their faculty — one of understanding and mutual respect.

 

I believe strongly as a professor that students, especially high-achieving students, get bored if you don’t push them. We need to push them to places intellectually where they might not be comfortable. The process needs to be consistently challenging, and it must force them to consider issues that they might not have ever considered. In the Honors Program we like to make our students uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable causes each of us to challenge the assumptions of the status quo and often do more that we thought we were capbable of. Our students rise to this challenge. Stimulating the growth of our students as scholars and as people is a core focus of a UNF education. It’s why I feel like every day is a new day on this campus. Twenty-five years in, and I still feel that same excitement.

Get to Know Dr. Jeffrey Michelman
  • What brought you to UNF?

    It was about finding a University that had a balance between teaching and research. Also, my wife said I could put it on “the list” as she loves the Ocean.
  • What’s the most rewarding experience you’ve had with a student in one of your classes?

    That would be a mix of three different experiences: having a student (Wanyonyi Kendrick) selected as vice chair of the UNF Board of Trustees; having a student selected as a Prime F. Osborn, III Distinguished Business Leader (Anna Brosche) and then watch her run for public office; and having one of my students (Dana Wallace), who is also a co-author, be a reference for my application as director of UNF’s Honors Program.
  • What is the most rewarding academic experience you have had out of the classroom?

    Getting selected as the director of UNF’s Honors Program. I get a chance to be around people a whole lot smarter than me every day that really care about the community.
  • What’s your inspiration for teaching?

    My accounting professor at the University of Delaware, Araya Debessay
  • Describe your favorite UNF memory.

    Getting my letter from President Delaney telling me that I had been promoted to the rank of professor. I immediately called Emeritus Professor Charles Galloway, who told me 15 years earlier that this would be a great moment in my life. It was second only to the day I married my wife.
  • Do you have a favorite spot on campus? If so, where is it? What do you like about it?

    The third floor lobby of the Coggin College of Business. It is named in honor of my father. I don’t get up there as often as I would like, but I feel a connection to him every time I walk down the hall.
  • If you’ve taught at other schools, explain how UNF students are different from students at other institutions.

    The upper division and master’s students often have families and jobs. Some of them could be at the most elite business schools, but they are at UNF because it fits into their lives. They do extremely well and multi-task better than anyone!
  • What is the biggest change that you’ve encountered in higher education since you entered the field?

    Technology. Faculty and students often are reluctant to meet face to face. I am a big believer in online learning, but sometimes we just need to meet face-to-face.
  • Describe your teaching style. Do you like to integrate tech, or are you more comfortable with a lecture-style classroom?

    I am a big tech guy, but sometimes we get carried away. This fall, I will be teaching Managerial Accounting in Honors. We will watch videos and use spreadsheets, but I do not want the students to do all the stuff that the publisher makes available. I just want them to read, do some homework problems and think critically.
  • What advice would you give to a student who is about to graduate?

    Make sure that you don’t forget UNF and the faculty. Who impacted you? Stay connected. Every year, I have lunch at least once with my professor from the University of Delaware, Araya Debessay, after 36 years. I also get together with my Ph.D. adviser from The University of Wisconsin-Madison, Mark Covaleski, once a year.
  • When do you work best? Are you a night owl or an early riser?

    Because I have been an administrator most of my academic life, I have adapted to being a morning person.
  • Other than books related to your academic areas of interest, what literary genres do you prefer? Why?

    It is hard for me to admit publicly, but I almost never read for fun. When I read a best seller, it is almost always because it relates to school. I love “Outliers: The Story of Success” because it is a fantastic template for life and being in the Honors program, in particular.
  • What is your favorite memory from your undergrad days?

    The day I met Dr. Araya Debessay and he told me I wasn’t allowed to use a pencil in class. Pencils were for homework, ink, on the other hand, was for class. Whenever I think about doing things in class, I think about Araya, who is still innovating after 44 years!
Jeffrey Michelman environmental
I’m in year 25 at UNF, and I’m happy to say I’m just as excited to be a part of the campus community as I was during my first year here.