EDITOR’S NOTE: The following story and photos originally appeared in the April 13, 2012, issue of “The Murray State News” so any credit should be given to that paper, the writer and photographer. The story was written by Chris Wilcox and the photographs were taken by Greg Johnson.
President Randy Dunn has spent the semester teaching professionalism and management skills to the students in his youth and nonprofit leadership (YNL) class, Leadership and Support Systems in Youth and Human Service Organizations.
Dunn decided to teach the class because he felt he was lacking the close connection he once had with students.
He said his background in higher education began as a faculty member.
His main objective in teaching the course was to get back in connection with the students, the reason he came to Murray State University in the first place.
Dunn has taught at Murray State before, but was approached by the professors in the YNL department last year to begin teaching one of their classes because of his push to expand the program.
The class, YNL 351, is held at 6 p.m. every Tuesday night and contains mostly upperclassmen. This class is the first undergraduate course Dunn has ever taught.
“In my original discipline, education leadership, all of the programs were graduate programs,” Dunn said.
He said this class was especially different from the others he has taught because it was what professors called a “new prep” course, meaning it was a course he had to prepare from scratch.
Dunn said he thought his experience leading the university was beneficial to the students.
“Hopefully, the students have gotten something out of this class and, hopefully, the perspective I have brought as president has had some value for them that has been beneficial,” he said.
He said the course was based on leadership and he believes the students have done an exceptional job in his class.
“I worried a little going in that students might hesitate to have the good give-and-take professors want from students,” Dunn said. “That hasn’t been a problem. They’re more than willing to stand their ground and make the points and articulate the position that they believe. And I’m glad about that.”
The text for the class was co-written by Dr. Roger Weis, director of youth and nonprofit leadership, and Dr. Robert Long, professor of youth and nonprofit leadership. Each professor expressed joy over the fact the president was teaching a course in YNL.
Dunn said one of the biggest helps in teaching the course was the fact he could use Weis and Long as resources for guidance and assistance.
He said by teaching the course he has gained better insight into the rhythm and flow of student life.
Long said Dunn had the perfect expertise to teach the class.
“I suspect it is unusual for the president of a university to teach a class,” Long said. “I imagine the only reason he is doing it is because he has a desire to do so.
“The students we share in our classes say he is very dedicated and serious about the class. The students have also said they thoroughly enjoy the class and that they hope he continues to teach it.”
Dr. Don Robertson, vice president of student affairs, said Dunn, as a higher administrator, rarely gets one-on-one contact with the students, but as their professor it enables him to develop a stronger connection.
“It sends a message to students that academics are very important to the higher administrators,” he said. “In general, smaller universities seem to have stronger connections with their students.”
Alex Calloway, senior from Murray, said he has learned how to better deal with stressors related to the field and how to be professional.
“Dunn is a lot better at teaching the class than what I imagined,” he said. “He actually engages the class.”
Katie Heierman, junior from Henderson, Ky., said the class was the most unusual she had ever been in, but she believes Dunn is one of the best professors she has ever had.
Katelin Stern, junior from Erlanger, Ky., said there are many different ways to learn leadership, but the best way was to experience it.