The annual Educator of the Year Award was bestowed upon Dr. Carol Hepfer for her dedication to her students and advisees both in and outside the classroom. This honor is presented to faculty on campus, who have dedicated themselves to their students, both undergraduate and graduate, through teaching and advising.
Dr. Hepfer is a professor in genetics, as well as cell and molecular biology. She has been a member of the university faculty since 1982. Soon after, there were newfound understandings of molecular biology and genetics regarding the mechanisms and therein the ability to manipulate the genes. She became involved in changing the curriculum to include these new findings of those subjects, as well as the technology used.
Hepfer is very fond of the research projects and publications that she and her students have worked on, as well as the collaborations with other universities, including Franklin & Marshall, Hershey, and Penn State. Currently, she is looking forward to a study abroad course in Maine with Dr. Thompson, and is eager to adventure with her students to collect specimens, which she has done for the past three summers.
Dr. Hepfer explained that she knew little of the requirements or methods of registering for the award prior to being awarded. After the nomination, she was asked to give a summary of her accomplishments as an educator, but the hardest part for her was asking for references, as she admitted that she is hesitant on asking for favors, explaining, “It’s not easy for me to ask people to do things for me. I think that is true for a lot of people. You don’t want to go and ask, ‘Can you do me a favor, and take a lot of time and write these things for me?’”
It felt queasy, but to her surprise she had colleagues and students that jumped at the chance. Hepfer mentioned that it meant a lot to her for students willing to go above and beyond.
When asked what the Educator of the Year Award represented for her, Dr. Hepfer believed it was symbolic of methods of teaching. She explained, “The best part for teaching for me has really been being able to sit down one on one, and act more like a coach for a student, or someone that helps them realize their potential, realize how to get to their goals. That’s probably the most rewarding thing.”
For Dr. Hepfer, educating is about the relationship with students. Even beyond college, those students have stayed in touch. To her this reward represents the recognition of being an educator by touching the lives of her students and colleagues at Millersville University.