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Why Matters

Posted Sept. 17, 2014
By Haley Hinze, first year M.M.C. student

Why did our three new faculty members choose teaching? Because they believe in lifelong learning, and know that they can learn from their students.


What do a library book, a lawnmower, and a social media site have in common? For the most part, nothing. But they are things that our college's three new faculty members discuss in their teachings.

Heather Moorefield-Lang, formerly a university librarian, has training in theater performance and travels whenever she can. Darin Freeburg enjoys gardening now that he has traded his Midwestern life for the warmer Southeast. And Mo Jang is on a continuous search for authentic international restaurants in the area.

They are living their new lives in Columbia differently, but their reasons for making the transition are all similar: to teach students and to learn a few things themselves.

Dr. Heather Moorefield-Lang, School of Library and Information Science

Moorefield-Lang's office door is adorned with pictures and book quotes, and her tablet sits by the computer disguised as an old hardcopy book. "I actually left it on a restaurant table once, but nobody messed with it, because, who wants an old book?"

She has been working in libraries since elementary school and, throughout her higher education, dedicated her research to emerging technology in that field. The programs she currently enjoys working with allow for creativity, art and critical thinking for both children and adults in designated spaces in libraries.

Moorefield-Lang's theater background is evident in her classes."I looked at being a performer and I looked at being a teacher," she says. "It's really exciting. Because of my performance background, I really like working in that capacity. It's that interaction with other people that I work with" that sets the classroom apart from the stage for her.

The constant communication with her students and peers drives her teaching. She believes in learning not just by watching, but also by doing. She pays attention to how she learns herself, and turns that into her instruction style. Having learned how to teach hands-on, audio, visual and other types of ways to learn, she alternates to keep her students on their toes. "We're trained in all different ways to teach students kindergarten through 12, so I ask myself why should that be different in college?"

Dr. Darin Freeburg, School of Library and Information Science

"Having a Ph.D. does not make you more intelligent," says Freeburg. To him, the degree simply indicates the career path he's devoted to. He believes in breaking down barriers between student and instructor. "I'm not just sitting in an ivory tower looking down upon them." Teaching "makes me feel like I'm contributing to society in some way," he says.

Freeburg also likes to bring his real-world experiences to the classroom. His interests in yard work, religion and music have not only helped him in his education, but in bringing in new perspectives in his Intro to Information Literacy and Technology and Online Information Services classes. He even "did a bunch of research on a lawnmower" and brings that up in his lectures.

He says that sharing anecdotes between teacher and student can lead to more learning and applications. Students have their own experiences that they can teach to their professors, and they "have a lot to say."

Dr. S. Mo Jang, School of Journalism and Mass Communications

What is "big data"? Not many people know, according to Jang, but his students are about to. "This field is pretty excited about the new big data research opportunities, but not many people are actually using big data for research," he says. Big data are large file sets that must be broken down into subjects for easier access, "meaning any social topics could be there."

Collaboration drives Jang's teaching. " I don't think I'm just delivering information and knowledge." He has his students work in pairs or small groups to allow more open and honest discussion, especially in a larger environment. He encourages questions and incorporates trendy topics to keep scholars engaged. In his Persuasion Theory class, for example, he uses hot-button themes like college hook-up culture to help students apply theories to real-world scenarios.

In addition, Jang thinks he can use his research to collaborate with his students and peers. "I have big data access for Twitter, big data access in blogs. Already many people have contacted me for projects," he says. He says he can provide a broader research spectrum in the field of mass media and is excited to introduce it to the school of journalism and mass communications. "Any researcher can work with me."

Why do the new faculty members focus on a constant cycle between teaching and learning with their students? Why do they inject stories about gardening, traveling, reading and socializing? Because real-life application matters. Because why matters.


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Haley Hinze

Haley Hinze is a first-year Master of Mass Communication student from Greenville, S.C. With interests in both written and visual communications, she aspires to enter the magazine publishing industry. When she's not in school, you can find her traveling almost anywhere in the country.