‘Why did you become a professor?’

Behind every professor is another great professor

Many professors at the University of Rhode Island did not expect to teach at a university when they were in college themselves.

Julianna Golas, a lecturer and academic advisor for human development and family science, started her journey believing she wanted to be a journalist. 

“My road to teaching was not intentional,” Golas said, “but a happy accident that brought me to this place.” 

Since 2000, Golas has been teaching for the department of human development and family science. She said that she is interested in unique student populations and creating a curriculum that will engage her students.

“I was and still am a people watcher,” Golas said. “I wonder why people behave the way they do and have always looked for trends and patterns.”

Following her passion, she began her career at URI on a grant researching the efficacy of Early Head Start programs, which serve infants and children under the age of 3, according to Golas. 

“My people-watching skills are a big part of teaching and learning,” Golas said. “You really need to read the room and know when students are engaged and understanding.”

Mary Cappello, a professor of English and creative writing at URI, began her education journey majoring in English at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Knowing she wanted to continue her own research and writing, she went to the State University of New York at Buffalo’s center for graduate school. 

“There was an emphasis at Buffalo on the relationship between our critical and creative faculties, whereas in a lot of programs, those ways of thinking and writing are separated out,” Cappello said. “The influence of Buffalo on my writing and teaching has been life-long.”

She recalled a “special moment” when she was in graduate school when she had the opportunity to be the opening act for African-American poet Etheridge Knight. Cappello’s poem, which she read at the event, was chosen to be published in The American Poetry Review. 

“Knight knew that I was in grad school and en route to a career in higher education,” said Cappello. “At the end of the reading, he came up to me and said ‘you’re already professin’ up there!’”

Cappello said that in teaching courses like creative writing seminars, ENG 347: Antebellum vs. Literature and Culture, ENG 385: Women Writers, ENG 305A: Creative Writing Poetry and more, she never stops learning new things. 

“As a professor, you never stop learning, and there is not a semester that goes by when I don’t learn something from my students,” said Cappello. “Teaching is an ever-loving art that is impossible to master.”

Students who attend Cappello’s courses are instructed to find and think about themselves in a new way that they have not thought about before. 

“I especially love the experience of watching a student discover that they are truly a writer in one of my classes, when no one prior had ever encouraged them as such or no situation in their life had ever lent itself to discovering the artist that we, each of us, implicitly are,” said Cappello. 

Kristina Moyet, the associate director of academic programming assessment for the Talent Development program at URI, believes that her way of teaching comes from effective learning. 

“My purpose is to do amazing things and to bring others along the journey with me,” Moyet said.

In her role as the associate director of the Talent Development program, Moyet believes that making connections with her students allows a safe space to learn. 

“I believe that students are members of our community and that they are ‘our’ students not ‘my’ students,” Moyet said. “I expect students to be honest with me and themselves.” 

Growing up in Providence, Rhode Island, Moyet received her master’s degree in educational leadership and her graduate certificate in nonprofit studies from Rhode Island College. She has also earned her bachelor’s degrees in gender and women’s studies and psychology from URI. 

“I remain true to a life of learning and setting the bar high for them [students] to reach,” Moyet said. 

Meredith Boyajian, a mathematics lecturer at URI, teaches undergraduate courses with a specialty in numeracy for teachers. 

“I became a professor because I love teaching,” Boyajian said. “From a young age, I enjoyed school and the art of learning.”

Boyajian first received her undergraduate degree from URI in 2013 for secondary mathematics education and began teaching math. While teaching, she continued her education at Worcester Polytechnic Institute where she said she earned her master’s degree in mathematics for educators.

“I went to college to study mathematics education because I wanted to become a high school math teacher, but it wasn’t until after I graduated that I realized I wanted something different,” Boyajian said. “There is something special about working with university students and I love building relationships with them.” 

She said her specialty in numeracy for teachers focuses on assisting students who are studying elementary education to learn methods of math. 

“Teaching numeracy for teachers gives me the joy of being back in elementary school all while helping my students become better mathematicians and educators,” Boyajian said. 

In her teaching, students get to learn special skills for researching and writing, as well as new ways to implement these skills more effectively. 

“I feel quite lucky to have wandered down this path,” Golas said. “I get to share my love of human development, particularly child development and I get to apply what I know about development to help support my [students] in the classroom and in advising.”