Program: Biology/Zoology/Anatomy and Physiology
When Tom Ruehlmann was a graduate student at the University of Georgia, working on his Ph.D. in Zoology, he discovered an interest in anatomy and physiology.
"My dissertation addressed mate selection in rhesus monkeys. As a research assistant, I watched 200 monkeys almost every day for three years at the Yerkes Primate Center. It was a 'barrel of fun'!" he explained. "At the same time, I was a biology teaching assistant. I actually had planned on a career that was primarily in research, and the teaching assistantships were to support myself through graduate school.
"Some of my friends taught Anatomy and Physiology and suggested that I try it. I did and discovered that I really enjoyed it. The students who take A&P tend to be more focused and motivated. After all, what is more interesting than learning about your body and how it works?! Teaching also afforded an opportunity for the 'ham' in me to be in front of a captive audience."
Ruehlmann also discovered that he did not enjoy the pursuit of grant money that is involved with research. So he shifted his focus and came to College of DuPage in 1989 after completing his Ph.D.
Currently, many of his students are pre-nursing, pre-pharmacy and pre-physical therapy majors. Ruehlmann is helping them master content that will have a direct and beneficial effect on their health care careers.
"Beyond that, I hope my students develop an enthusiasm for the subject," he said. "The sciences are constantly changing and, thus, we must constantly keep up with the new developments. I try to convey the idea that science isn't always black and white - there are gray areas.
"I also hope students realize that science doesn't have to be dry and boring. That is one reason that I tell a lot of jokes and bad puns in class - it lightens up the atmosphere and the students tend to remember the material better using these silly tricks."
Over the years, Ruehlmann has been inspired by many educators -- from high school, both the University of Michigan and the University of Georgia, and COD. Their common denominators are a strong desire to help student learning and to keep trying new things in order to improve.
Ruehlmann also has learned plenty from the thousands of students he's taught at COD.
"Every semester, I have met people with inspirational stories - overcoming diseases, abusive relationships, poor academic backgrounds or learning disabilities," he said. "In addition to taking classes, most of these students are working part- or full-time in order to make ends meet. Many students are spouses, parents or care-givers who have very little free time to study. Yet, somehow, most of my students overcome their obstacles with drive and determination. I owe these people no less than my best efforts."