As the year draws to a close, seniors will not be the only ones leaving Florida Southern College. Several faculty members, for various reasons, will also be leaving.
Dr. Christopher Fenner, head of the Communications department, will be leaving for a position at the University of West Florida after being a member of the faculty for nine years.
“I’m leaving at the end of the May summer session,” Fenner said.
Dr. Adriana Tolentino, assistant professor of Spanish and faculty member for three years and pictured above, will also be leaving at the end of the May session for a position at Eckerd College for “personal reasons.”
“I had a baby recently, and I’m a commuter: I live in Orlando,” Tolentino said. “So it’s been really hard to manage my time now that I have a baby at home.”
Dr. Sharon Masters, professor of sociology and faculty member since 1987, will be retiring. Dr. Gwen Walton, professor of computer science and faculty member since 2002, taught her last class April 18.
“At this point, I just can’t physically keep working 80 hour weeks. Just can’t do it,” Walton said. “I decided I was exhausted and that I needed to retire at the point where I was still really enjoying what I was doing. So I’m going to play my harp a lot more, and I’m going to do some kayaking and canoeing, and a lot of hiking and write a few apps and that’s what I’m going to do with my retirement.”
The professors accumulated several memories during their time at FSC with their students. Fenner remembered the beginning of the award-winning Forensics program.
“After about a year and a half, we didn’t have anyone break into any kind of final round,” Fenner said. “Our second year here we had one tournament where four students were all finalists. And…I think everyone was crying. That was a nice moment.”
Other memories came from the classes they taught.
“One of them that I remember very dearly, I’ve taught at different levels, but this was an advanced class, it was Latin American Theater,” Tolentino said. “I had the greatest students who had lots of fun, lots of deep issues about Latin American culture and history, and students were really motivated.”
Walton enjoyed seeing students go through their journey in computer sciences.
“The first year programming and infrastructures classes, because students are just starting out and then you see them going from all of nothing to really being programmers,” Walton said. “And then the senior level software engineering class, where it all comes together into a big project and we learn how it’s done in industry.”
There were also stranger experiences.
“I had a student in my first year here when I was still trying to feel out the culture, in class where we were sitting in a circle, put on a sweatshirt backwards and pull the hood up over his face so that he could sleep in class,” Fenner said, “Sitting in a circle. Next to me.”
Tolentino recalled occasions where students told her that they could no longer come to class because, after a week of class, they had realized that they were in the wrong class.
“I had a couple of those,” Tolentino said. “That was pretty shocking, because it’s a Spanish class.”
All of the professors agreed that their students gave them a special experience at FSC.
“For whatever reason, I think there’s something really unique and special about Florida Southern students that I’ll certainly miss,” Fenner said. “I’ve had a lot of contact with a lot of great kids here, a lot of great students, and a lot of great colleagues.”
Walton enjoyed seeing students begin to understand the material.
“I like when the lightbulb goes off, when the student who has just struggled and struggled can suddenly do things,” Walton said.
Tolentino said that the “chance to change somebody’s life or direct somebody’s life” added to teaching.
“I can think of particular students who wouldn’t look very promising at the beginning, and then, once you get to know them and once you get to touch their lives and they touch your life, they make your profession more rewarding,” Tolentino said.