This story is the first in a series of Q&A’s with adjunct professors from around the Dallas County Community College District. Our first interview is with Dr. Aaron Juniper, an adjunct at Richland College. This is the first half of the conversation I had with him just before the Thanksgiving break. Part 2 will be posted next week.
Bobby Lewis: Where did you get your degree and what is your degree in?
Aaron Juniper: I have a doctorate in Education Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Oklahoma.
BL: OK, and which DCCCD college do you teach at now?
AJ: I’m at Richland.
BL: And how long have you taught there?
AJ: Since 2008.
BL: Have you taught at any other institutions?
AJ: The University of Oklahoma and North Lake College.
BL: And what classes do you teach now?
AJ: EDUC 1300, the Learning Frameworks.
AJ: Have you taken that one? Did you have to take that one?
BL: I did not, no.
AJ: Oh, OK.
BL: So how long have you taught on an adjunct basis?
AJ: This is going into my eighth year.
BL: So how did you get into teaching in the first place?
AJ: Educators pretty much run in my family. My mother was an educator. My father was an educator. Once I was in grad school and I think I was a teaching assistant – I was a research assistant and a teaching assistant. Because when I was getting my doctorate, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be an administrator or if I wanted to be a professor.
AJ: But as a teaching assistant, I discovered I really had a knack for, you know, classroom management, curriculum development, interpersonal skills with adult learners. It was just real comfortable for me. And so I just started pursuing that instead of going into administration. I said I’ll just go into curriculum development and teaching and it’s paid off for me.
BL: Right, so how did you catch on with DCCCD originally?
AJ: I started at North Lake. A friend of mine knew Zena Jackson and set me up with an interview when I had just moved to Texas. I had moved to Texas from Norman. And he said, “If you want to get your start in teaching, I can introduce you to the dean.” She’s at Tarrant County Community College now, but I forget her position at North Lake [Editor’s note: Jackson has been the Vice President for Academic Affairs at Tarrant County College since August 2013.]. But he just got me in a meeting with her and the meeting turned into a job interview. And two weeks later, I had classes at North Lake.
BL: Wow! It sounds like it’s a really fast process.
AJ: Yeah, it was. It was a very fast process. But I lived in Plano and a position came up at Richland. I just went on and transferred to Richland because it’s 15 minutes door-to-door instead of driving all the way out to North Lake.
BL: Right, I can imagine that’s a lot better.
BL: Do you have any desire to teach on a full-time basis?
AJ: As a professor, it would be kind of difficult right now. I’m very involved in the community out here with Plano Independent School District. I’m on the Plano Board of Commissions. I’ve found in teaching the Learning Frameworks class that a lot of students aren’t prepared for college, so what I started doing privately is teaching the Learning Frameworks and what I call College Readiness to high school students.
BL: Oh, OK!
AJ: And that’s taken off. You know, because I think it was after my first client of five to 10 students, they found out how beneficial it was to them when they first went to college. They told more people. So I actually have more work teaching College Readiness and ACT Prep to high school students than I do than I do with the Learning Frameworks.
AJ: Yes, and I’m teaching more outside of my adjunct, so at this point, this is my full-time job. I’m preparing non-traditional college students to be prepared for college life. It helps with their retention rate that everybody talks about and just getting them ready before they arrive. It saves them a lot of money, it saves full time professors…headaches because they have learners ready to hit the floor running when they come to college.
BL: Right, yes sir. How long have you been teaching the college readiness course?
AJ: Oh, this is going on my – let me see, my first student graduated from the University of Oklahoma last year, so I’d say five years.
BL: Wow, OK, so it sounds like you keep in contact with at least some of [your college readiness students]?
AJ: All of them.
BL: Really, OK.
AJ: All of them. All of them. I keep in touch with all of them. My first client is now a Petroleum Engineering graduate from the University of Oklahoma. I advise four students up there right now and two at Oklahoma State University. I advise two at the University of Texas A&M Kingville. Two at Louisiana Tech. One at Colorado State. One at TWU and two at UNT. I mistakenly put those three together sometimes. And they’ll come back and speak to my students that are now in the College Readiness class. It builds leadership skills with them.