Brian Knettle, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry, joins Pretoria Okafor, a sophomore majoring in biomedical humanities, on the Garfield Log.
This is the sixth in the series of Garfield Log stories through which students and their professors share the unique connections that define the “ideal college,” just as famous Hiram alumnus President James A. Garfield intended. Today on the Garfield Log, Pretoria Okafor, a sophomore majoring in biomedical humanities, joins her favorite professor, Brian Knettle, Ph.D., who has been teaching chemistry at Hiram for five years.
Pretoria, how would you describe Professor Knettle to someone who has never taken his classes?
I would describe Professor Knettle as someone who is very approachable, understanding and always willing to work with you. [One time] I received a low exam score and decided to stop into his office to have the questions I had gotten wrong explained to me. Once he finished going over the exam, he asked me, “I know you didn’t do so well on this exam; What’s going on?” I knew that he wanted to know why I had not done as well as I usually did, but he was also inquiring about the possibility of something I was struggling with personally affecting my academic performance. I couldn’t help but start to cry as I told him nothing was wrong. He looked concerned, but did not probe. I walked out of his office and almost reached the end of the hallway before turning around and walking back in. I told him everything that was going on and he simply listened. Looking back, I really appreciated the time that he made for me that day. He understood that I was not doing my best and was concerned about my performance as a student, as well as my well-being.
Professor Knettle, how does it feel to join a student on the Garfield Log?
It is an honor and a surprise to be mentioned in this fashion.
Did you always see yourself becoming a professor?
I started slowly in college as an undergraduate. It took me some time to develop the emotional maturity needed (and a major that I was truly interested in) to become successful academically. I hadn’t considered becoming a professor until I started graduate school, but found that the art of instruction brought me more satisfaction than the sole pursuit of research. Being a professor has allowed a balance between those two goals.
What would be your dream class to take or to teach?
Pretoria: If I could take my dream course, it would be a Paul Simon music appreciation course.
Knettle: I have an interest in anything that allows people to use their creativity to make things, so I’d love to teach something along those lines – woodworking or metalworking, for example.
Do you have any specific goals related to your future studies/career?
Pretoria: Ideally, I would like to be a pediatric neurologist, but I am looking at physician assistant (graduate) school. My ultimate goal is to help people as a health care provider.
Knettle: I have been considering pursuing a second degree for some time now. As much as it would make sense to complement my existing education (mathematics or biology), I’m still uncertain about what I want to do when I grow up!
What inspires you?
Pretoria: I am inspired by the honesty and integrity that is exhibited by those around me as well as their dedication to others. I would like to serve as a health care provider to an underserved population of people because I understand how important it is to have people who are an asset to your community ready to invest in you simply because they want to see you thrive.
Knettle: I find inspiration from my wife and kids. Their persistent joy in life is amazing to me.