By AMBER WOODARD
Students who attend Cumberland University can be sure of two things – the stairs in Memorial Hall multiply depending on how many books they are carrying, and that their professors will do everything they can to make sure the students succeed.
Dr. Eric Cummings, Associate Dean for the School of Education and Public Service, is one of those professors. He received a Master of Education degree from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education and a Ph.D. in Education Theory and Policy from Pennsylvania State University. He began working at Cumberland University (CU) in 2007 and has taught courses on Education as a Profession and Instructional Technology, has led student teacher Seminars and supervised student teachers.
Dr. Cummings was drawn to Cumberland University for a number of reasons. “I got to work on some very interesting studies during my doctoral program, but I found that the questions I was now asking myself were relating to how all of the broad educational topics affect the day to day work of teachers and students. I wanted to return to a place where I could be engaged with schools and prepare future teachers to go into the ‘trenches’ to improve education from the inside. Cumberland’s practitioner focus was, therefore, very appealing to me.” The idea of focusing his energy on teaching and the students also influenced his decision to come to CU. “Faculty members at larger institutions have many pressures that pull their energy away from the classroom and their students. That’s becoming true at all institutions, unfortunately, but another big appeal of Cumberland for me is that this is a place where my energy can be focused on teaching.”
Dr. Cummings feels it is in his job description to do all that is professionally reasonable and responsible to help CU students succeed. “Sometimes that means doing something to reduce their struggles, and sometimes that means doing something to increase their struggles intellectually. I hope I have done that,” he says. According to his students, he has. “I had to miss a few classes because of a family medical issue. Dr. Cummings worked with me in my missed assignments and even called to make sure I was handling things okay. That, to me, is a perfect example of a truly great educator,” says Kaitlyn Lassiter, a Music Education student who will graduate in May 2011. Lacey Greene, an Elementary Education major who graduated in May 2010, agrees. “He is his students’ advocate. There were countless examples from my time as a student that he had helped me, but even as a graduate, he continues to keep in touch. He called me to congratulate me on my first teaching job and even my recent engagement. To put it simply, Dr. Cummings cares. Now that I am teaching, I hope to ensure the same level of trust, confidence and care in my students as Dr. Cummings did in me.”
Dr. Cummings also wants to give credit to the other faculty members in the education department. “Our full-time and adjunct School of Education and Public Service faculty are all folks with rich practical experiences in a diversity of school settings and roles. Taken together, just the full-time faculty has more than two centuries of applied experience in classrooms, principals’ offi ces and district offices. We also have faculty who have studied theory and policy, so our students are exposed to a curriculum that includes fine grained knowledge of practice and exposure to the big questions in educational theory. I believe this is beneficial to students. We are committed to engaging in critical thinking with motivated minds.”
With dedicated, caring and knowledgeable educators like Dr. Eric Cummings and others on staff at Cumberland University, students can have confidence that attending this institution will not only provide an excellent education but also pave the way for a successful future in whatever path that they choose in life.