July 20, 2022 | Erin Bluvas, email@example.com
Jim Mensch and Ciaran Fairman, both faculty members in the Department of Exercise Science, have been recognized by the Student Disability Resource Center with 2022 Two Thumbs Up Awards. Faculty are nominated by students who are registered with the Center for going above and beyond to support them as a student with a disability.
Mensch is a clinical associate professor and the director for the M.S. in Athletic Training program. His research interests focus on pediatric sports medicine and helping athletic training professionals socialize into the workforce, particularly in non-traditional settings. Mensch teaches a variety of courses in athletic training and exercise science, including a sports medicine series he developed and leads in international settings (e.g., Australia, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands).
Mental health is so important to recognize and manage these days, and I want to make sure all students in my class are put in a position to succeed.
-Jim Mensch, clinical associate professor of exercise science/athletic training
With his extensive time in the classroom and research into the socialization aspects of the athletic training profession, supporting students with disabilities has always been a priority for Mensch. In 2008, he wrote a book (Athletic Trainer’s Guide to Psychosocial Intervention and Referral) after observing the challenges athletic trainers face in helping athletes who experience psychosocial issues.
“I didn’t know how to manage athletes suffering from depression, anxiety, disordered eating, etc. because I wasn’t trained on how to handle those types of issues,” Mensch says. “I wrote the textbook because I wanted to make sure the students in my AT program were trained better than I was.”
Mensch’s research and experience has taught him that athletes and students need to be treated individually when it comes to assistance, training and accommodations depending on their unique challenges. To help them perform to their capabilities, he applies these lessons to his work in the field and integrates the principles into the classroom.
“Mental health is so important to recognize and manage these days, and I want to make sure all students in my class are put in a position to succeed,” Mensch says. “The UofSC Student Disabilities Resource center does a tremendous job in helping students get the information and resources they need to be successful in the classroom.”
Mensch’s commitment is clear to his students, who report that he cares genuinely about each student – checking in to make sure they are doing well. “He was such a light every day in the classroom,” one student says. “I struggle with a lot of mental health issues as well as ADHD that hinder me from thriving in most of my classes, and Dr. Mensch went out of his way to make sure I felt comfortable during all of my exams and asked if my day got better when he knew I was having a rough time.”
I believe my job as an educator is to try to harness that collective passion and find creative ways to engage classes of varying sizes, while also respecting each individual.
-Ciaran Fairman, assistant professor of exercise science
Fairman is an exercise oncologist who joined the Arnold School in 2020 for his first academic appointment. As the director of the Exercise Oncology Lab and a core faculty member with the Cancer Prevention and Control Program, the assistant professor’s research examines the impact of exercise, nutrition and supplementation interventions during and after cancer treatments. Inspired by his mother’s battle with breast cancer, his goal is to prevent or reduce the side effects experienced with cancer and its treatment.
In the classroom, Fairman’s perspective is shaped by his working-class background, where he was the first in his family to go to college. The international and educational opportunities he has had over the years have motivated the Ireland native to ensure that all his students have the support they need to be successful.
“Every class brings a new set of individuals, each with their own backgrounds, lived experiences, perspectives on education and career ambitions,” Fairman says. “I believe my job as an educator is to try to harness that collective passion and find creative ways to engage classes of varying sizes, while also respecting each individual. That could mean finding ways to deliver teaching materials differently or being flexible with assessment types and deadlines. Most importantly, I have worked hard to educate myself, through formal learning opportunities – but also informal conversations – to get to know their background, culture, and/or experiences and help them overcome any potential challenges.”
Fairman’s approach is rooted in his belief that education should be safe, inclusive and accessible to all. It’s important to him that his students feel comfortable in his class, are able to enjoy the learning process and always know that he is in their corner. This intentionality extends to his educational materials, teaching style, mentorship, outreach activities and career guidance. The efforts come through loud and clear.
“Dr. Fairman realizes that everyone is a different learner, and he goes out of his way to adjust to it and help me further,” a student says. “He has never made me feel less than because of my disability, and even makes me feel prideful for asking for help.”
Established during the 2009-2010 academic year, the Two Thumbs Up Award is designed to thank faculty and staff across the UofSC campus who have advocated for students, encouraged them to participate, and changed perceptions of UofSC students with disabilities. Awardees are nominated by students who are registered with the Student Disability Resource Center.