60 Seconds with Dr. Elizabeth Gassel Perkins, Law Student turned Online English Professor

Dr. Elizabeth Gassel Perkins joined Darton State College in 2006 and is now the Dean of Humanities. She is also an online instructor in the Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership degree through eMajor. Let's get to know Dr. Perkins!

Where did you complete your degree(s)?
Valdosta State University, Ed.D. in Leadership;
University of Montevallo, BA and MA in English.

What is your field of expertise and what drew you to it?
I teach in three different fields: English (primarily), leadership, and first-year experience. I have wanted to be a writer since the age of about six or seven, and I spent my entire life working toward that goal. Of course, my specific passions have shifted throughout my lifetime, and when I went to college, I fell in love with editing by working in the Harbert Writing Center. I also had some excellent professors and thought I would like to follow in their footsteps and try to be the guide that other students might need. I started teaching FYE because I am passionate about students and like to give them the tools to be successful in their college careers and beyond. Finally, I decided to pursue my doctorate in leadership to develop my abilities as a supervisor and as a member of the community.

How long have you taught online classes?
I have been teaching online for nine years now, though I have always used an online component for all of my classes; I have been teaching for 11 years and I have loved every minute of it.

Why did you choose to become a college instructor?
I really love helping people, but I am not cut out for careers like nursing! I started out with intentions of becoming an attorney when I was an undergraduate, and I even applied to law school and registered for classes. However, right before classes were to begin, I decided to go with my back-up plan and earn my master’s in English instead. I really loved what I was doing in the writing center, and according to my mother, I was always meant to be a teacher. I also loved college so much that I never wanted to leave! So, after I graduated, I applied to be a part-time English professor, and I have been teaching ever since.

What do you like most about teaching online?
As funny as it sounds, I feel like I have even better interaction from my online students! They are constantly logging in, responding to discussion boards, and asking questions. I feel like I know all of them very well, even if we have not talked by phone (though I always encourage and welcome phone calls).

What was your most challenging subject in school, and how did you get through it?
Ugh. Algebra. I cried almost every day after school. I had always loved math and used to ask my teachers for extra problems to do for fun (nerd alert), but when it came to algebra, I just couldn’t get it. I studied for hours and hours on end and stayed after class for help, too. The more practice I did, the easier it became, but I really had to work at it. I still don’t get algebra, but I loved statistics and (kind of) liked calculus.

What do you like to do in your free time?
I work a lot, so I don’t have much free time, but when I do, I like to travel, go on cruises (when I can afford it), and catch up on television. I’m quite the foody, too, so when I get time to try new restaurants or recipes, I certainly take advantage of the opportunity. Finally, I am a big sports fanatic, and my favorite sport to watch is hockey (Go Blues).

What’s your favorite movie of all time?
It’s a movie from the early 80s that not many people have seen, but it’s Arthur, with Dudley Moore and Liza Manelli. It is truly hilarious, and I have seen it over 100 times.

If you had to choose a different profession, what would it be?
I love hair and make-up, too, so I think I would like to be a professional make-up artist. I would love doing make-up for photo shoots, movies, theater, and major events.

If you won the lottery, what would you do with your winnings?
This question is too hard! I have always wanted to open my own school, like Jo from Little Women did when her old Aunt March died, but I think maybe I would just invest in grants for students to go to college who have big dreams. I would also open a shelter for dogs. But of course, I would travel for at least a year and go all over Europe buying fancy make-up and shoes first!

What is something interesting about you that your students would be surprised to know? Even though I started college at 18 and was a traditional student, I was also very non-traditional in many ways. My parents couldn’t afford my college, though they were very supportive of me going to school. I had to pay my way through college, so I started when I was 14 saving for college and applying for scholarships. I also worked as many as three jobs and as much as 50-60 hours per week while taking courses full-time. What I wouldn’t have given to be able to take online courses! So, I understand how tough it is for some students who are balancing so many things. But, I graduated in four years summa cum laude and ranked first of all students in my major. If I can do it, anyone can!

What advice do you have for students taking online classes for the first time?
You can never underestimate the importance of logging in consistently! Make a calendar for yourself and don’t ever wait until the last minute to turn something in. Technology issues always happen right before you are about to submit something! Finally, make contact with your instructors. Reach out to them for help before you have a problem and not after. I love when my students call me so we can talk about their work and their progress!

You teach in the BS in Organizational Leadership program. Why do you think this program is a smart choice for students?
My studies in leadership changed the way that I see the world, and they inspired me to want to make a difference for all those with whom I interact. I also learned how to create strategic plans, balance the needs of company versus employee, and be a better communicator, thinker, and researcher. I highly recommend this field to everyone and anyone because what I learned is applicable to all jobs!