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Dr. Stephanie Slocum-Schaffer is a West Virginia Professor of the Year finalist

ISSUED: 1 February 2023

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — For 20 years, Dr. Stephanie Slocum-Schaffer has been able to do what she loves best—teach. Slocum-Schaffer, professor of political science, co-coordinator for the gender and women’s studies minor, and senior fellow at the Bonnie and Bill Stubblefield Institute for Civil Pollical Communications at Shepherd University, is a finalist for the Faculty Merit Foundation 2022 West Virginia Professor of the Year.

Headshot photo of Dr. Stephanie Slocum-Schaffer smiling, standing in front of White Hall.“I know that the nominees from other institutions have amazing resumes and great teaching, so it’s very exciting to be a finalist,” Slocum-Schaffer said. “I must give kudos to Shepherd University because I think part of what makes us good teachers here is the value that Shepherd puts on teaching. Shepherd really puts its money where its mouth is about the importance of teaching. It’s the central mission of this institution.”

Slocum-Schaffer didn’t find her passion for teaching immediately. After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in international affairs and Spanish from Bucknell University, she worked at a law firm in Washington, D.C. as a paralegal doing securities law, which she found boring.

“I got a volunteer job teaching English as a second language (ESL),” she said. “I just loved the relationships that I developed and the teaching part of that volunteer job. I couldn’t wait to do a job where I could have that kind of impact, where I could develop those kinds of relationships with people, and where I would never be bored.”

The experience as an ESL teacher spurred Slocum-Schaffer to return to college, where she earned her Ph.D. from American University. The ability to connect with students is one of the things that drew her to Shepherd.

“You develop relationships with students. You get to watch them evolve over time and get better and grow, and there’s just nothing like that,” she said. “It’s a privilege. For me, it’s just pure joy. I don’t take responsibility for that because the learning happens in the student. All I can do is make an environment where students can be as successful as they can.”

In the Department of Political Science, Global Studies, and Geography, Slocum-Schaffer primarily teaches American politics, public opinion, political behavior, research methods, and capstone classes. Aside from teaching some gender and women’s studies classes, Slocum-Schaffer is involved with the gender and women’s studies board of directors, which was the driving force behind a parental leave policy for faculty at Shepherd.

“It’s not just the programming but also the advocacy work on campus that’s important,” she said.

As a senior faculty member for research, recruitment, and retention at the Stubblefield Institute, Slocum-Schaffer is active in recruiting students and encouraging them to think about political communication and leadership. The Stubblefield Institute’s mission is to increase civility in political discourse.

Slocum-Schaffer was able to do a national-level survey looking at attitudes about civility and what impact it has on civic engagement. She also helped design a new curriculum in political communication and points out that Shepherd is one of fewer than a dozen institutions offering an undergraduate program in this field.

“I feel like we’re on the cutting edge by offering this interesting interdisciplinary area of study to Shepherd students,” Slocum Schaffer said.

As a finalist for West Virginia Professor of the Year, Slocum-Schaffer had to fill out a 30-page application, a task she at first found daunting.

“But it gave me the opportunity to look back at my 20 years at Shepherd and think about all that I’ve had the privilege to do,” she said. “I feel blessed to be part of this group of people who have been nominated by Shepherd for West Virginia Professor of the Year in the past and those who have been finalists and winners.”

The Faculty Merit Foundation was created in 1984 to recognize and reward innovation and creativity among the faculties of West Virginia’s public and private colleges and universities. Traditionally, finalists are honored at a springtime banquet in Charleston, where the Professor of the Year is announced. Plans for this year’s banquet have not been determined.

Listen to an interview with Dr. Stephanie Slocum-Schaffer here.

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