Eugenia Paulus - Student Introduction

Taj Melson
Former student of Eugenia Paulus
Outstanding Community Colleges Professor of the Year
Willard Intercontinental Washington Hotel
Nov. 20, 2008

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I would first like to applaud the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and TIAA-CREF for hosting this wonderful event. I would also like to thank all four recipients of the U.S. Professors of the Year Award because, like the individual I am about to introduce, you are the reason so many students achieve their dreams and live up to their full potential.

For seven years before returning to school, I had a wonderful career as an ice hockey player. When I decided to change career paths, I chose North Hennepin Community College in Minnesota to transition back into academia. And there, I met Dr. Eugenia Paulus, my chemistry professor.

Like many students taking chemistry, I wanted to be a doctor, but at times, I would struggle with core chemistry concepts and I wavered on whether I possessed the ability to fulfill my dream. During those times, Dr. Paulus provided the perfect mixture of constructive criticism and compassion and helped me realign my focus. Few professors in my academic career have given up precious personal time to assist me. When difficult concepts arose in the curriculum, she would stay late and provide extra teaching to any student who required assistance.

But her positive qualities extend beyond her altruism. You see, depending upon the path one chooses to pursue, much of the subject matter we learn from our professors in the sciences is never applied. What these professors teach students is a framework for understanding; it is a framework upon which a lifetime of inquiry can be constructed. Much of the chemistry I learned from Dr. Paulus has never been built upon. But she had a unique ability to show me her passion for chemistry, and her passion and positive attitude is now woven into my character.

The struggles she helped me overcome while learning organic chemistry have been applicable to overcoming struggles that I have faced during medical training. In five months, I will graduate from the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, and shortly thereafter begin training for a career as an emergency physician. Today, I stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the most highly educated and well-trained students in the country.

During my time in her classroom, Dr. Paulus provided me with not only the mindset, but also the skills and confidence one needs to survive in a stressful medical environment. She was the first professor who instilled in me the confidence I needed to thrive in academics, and for that, I will always be thankful. Ladies and gentlemen, would you all please join me in welcoming Dr. Eugenia Paulus.