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In Their Own Words: New Spring Hill College faculty look back at their first semester on The Hill

A first semester at Spring Hill College can be inspiring, influential and even homey. For some of the new 2018-19 faculty, these initial months have been all that and more. From opening week to the best places on campus, their words provide a personal look inside their inaugural chapter.

Dr. Matthew Gervase,Assistant Professor of French and Italian
BA, Creative Writing, California State University, Long Beach
MA, French and Francophone Studies, California State University, Long Beach
PhD, Literature, University of California at Santa Cruz

Hometown: Escalon, California

“I was struck by the beauty of the campus as well as the warmth and kindness of the students and faculty. It was a wonderful experience that helped me to feel at home immediately. Coming from California, I can also say it has been the easiest and most beautiful commute I’ve had in my life – a five minute walk from home to my office.”

Dr. Jamie O’Bryant, Assistant Professor of Psychology
BS, Psychology, Spring Hill College
MS and PhD, Social Psychology, University of Alabama

Hometown: Philadelphia

“Everyone is very down-to-earth, but their personal and professional experiences are inspiring. It was so motivating to know that I am working with other new faculty who share a passion for teaching.”

Dr. Robert Arbour,Visiting Assistant Professor of English
BA, Baylor University
MA and PhD, Indiana University, Bloomington

Hometown: Baton Rouge, Louisiana

“In just one semester, I’ve seen several examples of impressive student leadership in the classroom, from engaging presentations about essays we’ve read and vibrant acting adaptations of short stories to the production of inventive film scenes that tell mysterious ghost stories set on campus. I’m struck by the enthusiasm and the creativity of Spring Hill students, who take seriously the values of leadership and community, which makes them fun to teach.”

Mr. George Clark, Instructor Computer and Information Systems Division of Business
BS, Electrical Engineering, University of South Alabama
MS, Computer Science, University of South Alabama
Pursuing PhD in Computer Science, University of South Alabama

Hometown: Pensacola, Florida and Mobile

“I guess the most memorable moment for me was the Mass of the Holy Spirit at the beginning of the semester. I’m not Catholic and I previously taught at a public university, so this was a new experience for me. It was also the first time I had seen the inside of Saint Joseph Chapel. It was a beautiful and uniquely Spring Hill College experience.”

Dr. Alexandria Ruble, Assistant Professor of History
BA, History (with minors in German and Leadership Studies) from Christopher Newport University, Newport News, Virginia
MA, History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
PhD, History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Hometown: Newport News, Virginia

“What stands out to me is how welcoming and helpful everyone—students, faculty and staff—was. My new colleagues in my department (History) and my division (Social Sciences) were extremely eager to get to know me and make sure I felt acquainted with the College.”

The faculty agreed their students had grown in one semester not only as critical thinkers but also through the Spring Hill mission of faith, justice and service. As the second semester drew closer, they had sound advice for the path forward.

Dr. Ruble
On October 29th, 2018—two days after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting—I decided to devote most of the class to discussing the shooting and its implications for us in Mobile. I am a Board Member for the Gulf Coast Center for Holocaust and Human Rights Education and have met many members of our very vibrant local Jewish community. We had also just hosted a Holocaust survivor here in Mobile and on Spring Hill’s campus, so this issue struck close to home for me.

We have many bright and empathetic students here and we had a unanimous agreement that this was a tragedy. So I posed to them the question: What can we do, here in Mobile, to combat racism and antisemitism? It was incredible to watch my students thoughtfully address this question in respectful dialogue over the course of 50 minutes. After class, several students commented that our discussion had made them think more critically about how these events trickled down and affected them on a day-to-day basis in a way that they did not see 50 minutes before. For me, each and every student in that classroom grew into our mission that day as they embraced the challenge of striving for solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters.

Dr. O’Bryant
I have been so impressed by the way that SHC students express their thoughts. Students are very engaged in classes, they freely share their opinions in respectful ways and have a genuine interest in contributing to the community. Many students make direct references to Jesuit ideals in classroom discussions and have been clearly impacted by their unique experiences at Spring Hill College.

Be careful not to hold on too tightly to any mistakes you made this semester.  Every semester will have its own handful of mistakes. Look back on your accomplishments from this semester, and use every mistake as your motivation and training to make next semester your best yet.

Dr. Gervase
I really appreciate the College’s commitment to the whole self and the focus upon how we live our lives in relation to the world around us. I think students are really interested in developing a sense of vocation that will allow them to live a meaningful and satisfying life. Studying a new language encourages them to flesh out and explore their curiosity about the larger world and their place in it.

Mr. Clark
Reflect on what went right and wrong last semester. Repeat and perfect the good habits and learn from any mistakes made. Treat next semester’s classes as a clean slate and an opportunity to learn and grow.

Dr. Arbour
The students I’ve seen who have the most enriching experiences at Spring Hill are the ones who master managing their time independently—and a number of them do that better than I do!  They have the ability to break their assignments into gradual stages, and as they do that, they remember the importance of involving themselves in the Spring Hill community.  They are resident advisors, cheerleaders and rugby players, and they represent the college proudly with their involvement and their scholarship. I’d advise students to follow that model and to make friends with those who do.

That’s the other thing I notice about successful Spring Hill students: they have great friends!  They surround themselves with a smart and supportive group of people, and they make the most of those relationships for themselves personally.

Parting question: What’s your favorite spot on The Hill?

Dr. O’Bryant
My favorite place is probably the favorite spot of so many who visit and love SHC! My favorite moment of each work day is driving through Avenue of the Oaks.  Driving under those oaks is a reminder of so many things – my past as a student here, the opportunities ahead of me as a new faculty member, the students and faculty who have gone before me and will continue to come after me and the long history of this beautiful campus that has changed shape over the years, yet maintained its Jesuit roots and ideals.

Dr. Gervase
I know it’s a small college, but I don’t think I can limit myself to just one place. So here are a few:  St. Joseph Chapel, Byrne Hall, Avenue of the Oaks, Stan Galle Field, the Mary Lou and John Barter Student Center. I’m a big flâneur and each of these places offers the chance to enjoy the beauty of the campus as well as the many people that make it such a special place.

Mr. Clark
So far all of my classes have been scheduled in the Burke Library. I know that it’s over 14 years old, but it still has a modern feel to me. It’s great to walk in and see students studying, congregating, and working on assignments.  To me it’s really the place where hands-on learning occurs on campus.

Dr. Ruble
I love walking through the Spring Hill College Quadrangle every day on my way to class. I think it’s one of the most beautiful places on campus (it’s a tough competition, though!)

Dr. Arbour
I’m a big baseball fan—I sometimes teach about baseball in my classes—and so Stan Galle Field and its history and lore were a big draw for me, even before I started teaching on campus. I can’t tell you how excited I was when I found out that my office in the LAC looks out on the field. I can see a good slice of the third base line and home plate when I’m standing at my window, and when I do that these days, I think of an insight another of my students, Tylan Nettles, had about this campus: It intertwines with power and beauty the old and the new. This new faculty member can feel himself being weaved into the fabric of a historic campus with rich traditions. It’s a pleasure to be here.

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