When Dr. Elizabeth Pearsall was in elementary school, she entered science fair competitions. In junior high, it was the Science Olympiad. Today, she shares her passion for science with American Public University students all over the globe and represents a new generation of women in STEM.
One of the things that drew Pearsall to the sciences is her curiosity to seek out answers. “There is always a right answer. You may take four different paths to get to that answer, but there is always a right answer,” she said. With a doctoral degree in medicinal biochemistry, Dr. Pearsall has found many right answers in her career. Young, enthusiastic and full of energy, it’s hard to not get swept up in her love for science and teaching at APU.
Dr. Pearsall’s classrooms are evidence of her ability to engage with people. Her students find classroom conversations range from hard science to deviled egg recipes. “Discussion forums are a great way to build community. For every student I reply to, I ask a question, often something related to the topic that encourages further thought, or something that links the topic to life outside the classroom.” As a former student with more than 30 semester hours of experience in the online classroom, Dr. Pearsall is aware of the importance of being proactive in maintaining communication with faculty, “Your professors are real people. They are someone just like me or you, with a life outside of school, a family, kids.”
Like many others, Dr. Pearsall first heard about APU by word-of-mouth. “My husband is in the military and his friends highly recommended the university. I knew immediately I would love it because my husband is still active duty, and I’m a working mother, so I understand the challenges many students overcome to get their degree.” Dr. Pearsall completed much of her own education as a non-traditional student, often working two jobs while juggling school and family priorities. “The one thing that impresses me the most about my students is their determination to succeed, and as a faculty member I do anything and everything I can to help them.”
Perceptions about online education are changing, and APUS is breaking the mold with innovative methods of teaching science. “One of the best things about our natural sciences program is that our labs come to the student. We are one of the few accredited online universities that offer real lab courses. These are the same labs you would complete if you went to a hometown university down the road. They are challenging and fun, can be done from anywhere. They are rigorous and are exactly what the students need.”
As faculty director supervising over 150 instructors in the STEM school, Dr. Pearsall fosters a close community of adult learners, from supporting the new Women in STEM group (wSTEM) to encouraging one-on-one time between faculty and students. “It’s important to stay in touch with your instructors, whether it be email, classroom messages, ClearPath, or our online office hours. We all have office hours via Adobe Connect every week and can work with our students within this interactive virtual environment with audio, video, file sharing. We even have a white board.”
Like many of our faculty, Dr. Pearsall says being a part of the APU community is very special to her. “Teaching allows me to help others reach their goals. It’s all about letting you know you are not doing this on your own. We are with you every step of the way.”