Patricia Kelley - Student Introduction

Remarks by Rene Shroat-Lewis
Former student of Patricia Kelley
2014 Outstanding Master's University and College Professor of the Year

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,

It is a distinct pleasure to introduce you today to Dr. Patricia Kelley. Tricia and I met in early 2002 during a visit I made to the University of North Carolina Wilmington with a geology class from Cape Fear Community College. At the time, I was 37 years old, had just gone through a bitter divorce, was changing careers and was in my second year of college. No one in my family had an education beyond high school, and I was quite nervous at the possibility of attending university. Tricia took the time during that initial meeting to speak with me one-on-one about the possibility of a career in geology. She showed me that paleontology offered me the opportunity to combine my love of marine biology with my newly formed interest in geology. The following semester, I enrolled in the geology program at UNCW under her advisement. Her advice changed my life forever!

Tricia recently asked me to choose three words that described her. The first word I chose was "patient." Although I like to think I was a top-notch student that was always on top of her work, there were times when I procrastinated on my research, leaving the data gathering and write-up until the very last moment. Most often that meant that I was spending countless hours overnight and weekends in the lab attempting to get my work done. Tricia would always ask kindly how the work was going and when could she expect my thesis to be turned in for her review. She never got frustrated, even though she had every right to be, and if she did, she never showed that side to me.

The next word I chose was "supportive." I took Tricia's Invertebrate Paleontology course during my first semester at UNCW. During that class, she engaged her students in a hands-on, active learning project. We went on field trips to fossil collection sites in the area, brought back our samples and got to work on experiencing the scientific method first-hand. Our group formulated a hypothesis as we were sorting and identifying hundreds of fossil shells. Data collection, statistical testing and trying to make sense of the results took several weeks of lab time, but I found the process so fulfilling. I could easily lose hours making notes and counting shells. When Tricia asked for volunteers to go to the Sectional Geological Society of America Meeting in Washington, D.C., to present the class findings, my hand was raised faster than you can imagine, and Tricia selected me to be a representative for our class. The experience was life changing. With Tricia's help and guidance, I had achieved the dream I'd had since the age of five—I was a scientist talking with other scientists about science!

Finally, I chose the word "motivating." While watching Tricia work with her classes, I took many mental notes on how to be the kind of teacher that inspired and encouraged her students to reach for higher levels of understanding. Her enthusiasm for her subject and her compassion for her students are unparalleled. Each day as I walk out of my own classroom, I like to think that she has instilled enough of herself in me so that I, too, motivate my students to seek that higher level, do more than is expected and never stop reaching for the proverbial brass ring.

Ladies and gentlemen, would you please join me in welcoming Dr. Patricia H. Kelley.