SPIE Career Center

Professor and Program Coordinator

Judy Donnelly
Professor and Program Coordinator, Three Rivers Community College, USA

How do you spend a typical day?
The best part about my job as a community college teacher in charge of a technology program may be that there is no such thing as a "typical day." I usually need to be on campus three, sometimes four, days a week, and when I'm not actually in class, I'm advising students or working in the lab on new class activities and experiments. I have some freedom to pick the days and times of my classes, but everything revolves around the student schedule so there isn't as much flexibility as in some departments. My classes tend to be more hands on and less lecture, which requires a lot of preparation. The past several years, I've also taught at least one online course, which I prefer to do from home where there are fewer interruptions. Of course, there are faculty meetings once or twice a month; more likely there are small informal meetings several times a week to discuss scheduling, curriculum, lab equipment and experiments, or student issues. I spend a lot of my day answering email, which is the primary mode of communication with students on the days that they (or I) are not at the college.

On the days I'm not on campus, I work at home on many of the "usual" teaching activities--course preparation, grading papers and program-related paperwork and reports--or I can work on projects that help keep my knowledge current and strengthen my program. For example, I've had several industry externships that have allowed me to spend one to two weeks at a company talking with employees to learn what job skills my students need to have when they graduate. I've also been involved in many NSF grants, which means a totally different kind of day--meetings in person (sometimes at a distant site) or by phone, planning and running workshops, developing new curriculum and new ways of teaching, and attending conferences.

I don't teach in the summer (although I could if I wanted to). When my children were young, I took a long vacation (a definite benefit to my job!) but for the past several years I have used the time to work on NSF and school projects. I might spend my days (or nights or both) at home at a computer working on a textbook, lab activities for middle school kids, curriculum materials for college students, or a conference paper or presentation. Or I may spend time in my lab at the college cleaning out a stockroom or learning to use new equipment (or old equipment in new ways). The choice is mine.

What (if anything) would you change?
I really don't like grading papers!

What one piece of advice would you give to someone starting their career?
Network! Get some business cards and take them everywhere. People are your greatest resource.