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Fine arts faculty member returns to classroom for science degree

Arts Faculty Feb 21, 2024
A woman stands in a hallway

KOKOMO, Ind. — For many years, Minda Douglas participated in Indiana University Kokomo’s Commencement as a faculty member.

This May, she will be among the graduates.

Douglas, associate professor of fine arts, will complete a Bachelor of Science in Biological and Physical Sciences, with minors in biology and earth and environmental sciences. That may seem like an unusual degree for a faculty member in new media, art, and technology, but it was a natural choice for her.

“I’ve always been interested in science and nature, specifically ecology,” she said. “It inspires my artwork. Throughout the years, I’d often do side research projects to inform my artwork, and then I would also incorporate a lot of hiking, going to national parks, and that kind of research. I decided to start taking classes to go a little bit deeper into sciences.

“Then it just evolved into finishing a degree in science.”

Douglas previously earned Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees, but even as a graduate student took science classes.

“It’s always been a second love for me,” she said. “I would seek out opportunities to be in nature.”

Douglas started taking one class a semester in 2019, with additional classes during summer sessions.

“Going back to school after so many years makes you feel very vulnerable,” she said, adding that during her first few semesters, she sometimes was classmates with students from classes she taught.

“At first it was strange, but I was able to shift and wear different hats so to speak,” she said. “It became a more natural feeling to step into a different kind of environment.”

Being a student and faculty member at the same time — especially during COVID — gave her a new perspective on teaching and learning.

“It was helpful to see some of the challenges of COVID from both sides,” she said. “Being a student gave me a new perspective on how to teach material, and what it’s like to be a student, with the various things you have to balance.”

Douglas also participated in the Kokomo Experience and You (KEY) program both as a faculty member and a student. She’s preparing to lead a trip to Italy during spring break for art and communication students, and has gone to the Indiana Dunes National Park, a hummingbird festival, and herpetology trips around the state as part of her classes.

Being part of the classes gave her new appreciation for her faculty colleagues and the work they do.

Her favorite class was a summer herpetology class with Michael Finkler, professor of physiology, which led her to research with him about the eastern painted turtle.

“It’s a different kind of interaction than I’ve had before with other faculty,” she said. “His research was very interesting to me, and I was able to work with him all summer. It was an amazing experience.”

After completing her degree, Douglas plans to continue taking classes, possibly enrolling in an IU master’s program in parks management.

“I’m not certain if I’ll follow through on that, keep taking science classes with faculty here, or do both,” she said.

Douglas hopes other faculty members will consider taking classes and learning from the experts available on campus.

“It’s probably something all of us think we don’t have time for, but if you work it into your schedule, it will enrich your teaching. It will enrich your perception of the university, and give you more understanding and empathy for the students you teach.

“It’s just been one of the most meaningful things I’ve done in my academic life.”

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.

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Danielle Rush, communications specialist

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