Enterprise Education Fall 2017

Teaching from a Distance

Wildlife Biologist Dr. Brent Bibles adds expertise to Master’s programming

Dr. Brent Bibles could tell you a story or two about the differences between graduates and undergraduates. Where undergraduate students spend as much of the college experience finding themselves as earning their degrees, graduate students are more at a point in their lives where they have professional experiences and first-hand accounts to bring to the table. And where undergraduate students often need mentoring and guidance outside the classroom, graduate mentoring is more focused on professional career goals, and less about learning how to move through the world as a successful adult.

They both have their upsides — and downsides — but the transition has been well worth it for Dr. Bibles. As Distance Education’s first full-time graduate faculty member, graduate students are his latest adventure, benefiting from his years as a wildlife biologist with experience in both online and graduate-level teaching.

Since his hiring, Dr. Bibles has taught courses in the Master’s of Sustainable Natural Resource Management program such as Human Dimensions of Natural Resource Management, Quantitative Methods, and the program’s capstone courses. As part of his work as a full-time distance education faculty member, he also helps review, assess and guide the curriculum. But it’s his work with students that really fulfills him.

“They push me. There’s always the challenge of figuring out ways to improve what I’m doing, problem-solving, and helping my students come to an understanding of complex material,” he said. “Our roles here are constantly evolving, but it’s the teaching that brings me back every day.”

The types of things Dr. Bibles can do in the classroom and the types of content he can engage with are more in line with his professional background than ever before. Discussions among and with his students are more engaging because graduate students are, by definition, working with more complex data and processes than undergraduates.

As part of its comprehensive distance education initiative, Unity College began to offer an M.S. in Professional Science degree in October 2016 — the first graduate degree ever offered at America’s Environmental College, and the first degree offered completely online. Unity’s online master’s programming offers an affordable, flexible format for professionals seeking to advance their careers while working full-time or at a distance from the residential campus in Maine. Students benefit from small classes, world-class teachers, and flexible class schedules, creating a dynamic and personalized learning community.

“Dr. Bibles has been an invaluable addition to the Distance Education Team,” Unity College Chief Distance Education Officer Dr. Amy Arnett said. “His experience in Wildlife Biology, his nationally-recognized scholarship, and expertise — plus teaching experience — provides indispensable support to the Master’s in Sustainable Natural Resource Management program. He has been a valued colleague at Unity College for many years, and I always knew he would be a great addition to Distance Education if he wanted to make that career shift.”

The Distance Education program is rapidly progressing with about 30 dedicated students from all over the country, ranging between 24 and 55 years old. The first master’s graduates are currently on track to finish their degrees this fall.