Faculty Focus: Will Primack
College of Science, Engineering and Technology
Title: GCU Full Time Faculty, M.D.
Years at GCU: 7
Academic degrees: B.S. from University of Illinois (pre-med/general biology), M.D. from Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine
Notable employment in your field: 10 years teaching
What are you most passionate about in your field? The teaching field … continuing to find new ways to spark intrinsic motivation within my students … the medical field … individualized, patient-specific, anti-cancer antibody treatments.
What aspect of your teaching style is the most distinctive and/or memorable?
When I was contemplating accepting a full time faculty position at GCU, my neighbor (faculty at a different university) told me that her job is “to profess.” In her mind, she was only there to convey information in her area of expertise to her students with little more beyond that.
Let’s face it — most students can sit through a 55-minute lecture today with a pre-loaded PowerPoint presentation on their laptop, completely zone out, and then watch some other guy on YouTube explain what they missed in class when they are ready to cram for the midterm and final exams. Educators today need to give students a reason to not just show up to class, but to want to want to show up for class.
I actually break down the average cost of a four-credit-hour class that I teach to cost per class/minute/second. I let my students know that they are going to get their money’s worth in my class. I am not a PowerPoint slide reader. I am not a monotone talking head who sits in a chair for an hour straight spewing forth my infinite wisdom on the intricacies and complexities of the human body. And there are certainly many other college faculty across the nation with more widely recognized names than mine. Students are not generally impressed by any of these things.
Almost any student will want to know what they need to know in order to earn a high grade in the class. It takes most students a few weeks at most to figure out how to play the game to get the grade. The college classroom of today needs to be more than an arena for memorizing information, spewing it back on exam days, getting the final grade for the course and moving on to the next class.
So what do students want other than an “A?”
They want an instructor who writes, draws and diagrams with them.
They want to be challenged by the opportunity to work with their peers, in the classroom setting, by solving critical-thinking scenarios that relate to the content being taught.
They want to know why they need to learn what is being taught.
They want to know how it fits into the bigger picture in terms of their careers and beyond.
They want to be able to look up to their instructor as a source of knowledge without being so intimidated that they never even introduce themselves after class or during office hours.
Nearly all college graduates will be entering a career field in which interpersonal skills and communication with colleagues/bosses/clients/buyers/sellers/patients are of the utmost importance. Like it or not, educators today will need to provide their students with the opportunities to practice the soft skills that employers are looking for in the workplace, including maintaining eye contact, using appropriate body language during conversations, and the ability to form meaningful and descriptive sentences.
These skills are only developed with practice, and what better place to practice than by educators creating a communicative classroom environment? For most individuals, a college education will be one of the most expensive purchases of their lives, so why not make the university experience less about proving how educated we educators are and instead make sure that our students leave truly well educated?
What do you like to do for fun in your spare time? I used to be heavily involved in the Ironman Triathlon. I have given that up for the most part and now enjoy Crossfit, trail and road running, cycling, hiking and mountain biking.
What is something interesting about you that most people don’t know? Trance, house and progressive music genres are always on my music playlists. This type of music, which drives most people nuts, is what I would listen to while studying, driving or training for sports competitions.