Dr. Rachel Walker
Dr. Rachel Walker is the 2011 recipient of Charleston Southern University’s Excellence in Teaching Award, as well as the South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities Excellence in Teaching Award.
Originally from Franklinton, Louisiana, Walker earned her BS and MS in Marine Biology and her PhD in Experimental Psychology (a branch of psychology that can be applied to people or animals), all from the University of Southern Mississippi. One of her mentors, a professor who taught Cognitive Psychology, influenced her teaching. Walker said he had such passion for the subject and was able to make her “interested in a subject she had little [at that time] background in.”
Walker began working at CSU in 2005, but she has been teaching for much longer; even as an undergraduate at the University of Southern Mississippi, she was teaching biology lab classes. While working on her PhD, Walker taught full-time at the University of Southern Mississippi and also taught Biology and Psychology at Pearl River Community College in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. All of her experience teaching prepared her for the 4/4 teaching load at CSU, though, she says, she’s “still learning” about teaching. She enjoys creating new projects, “changing it up.” One of her recent teaching and research interests is technology and how it affects people.
It was while in Mississippi, searching online, that Walker found the CSU job opening. There weren’t any job openings for the Christian liberal arts school in Hattiesburg, but she saw the CSU job ad on the Southern Baptist Convention’s website. The job listing had actually expired, but she called Dr. David Naylor who invited her to send her application and c.v.
Walker’s teaching methods have evolved over the years. At first, she says, her classes were nearly all lecture. She found, however, that lecturing didn’t fit her style. Now, she is a much more hands-on, interactive teacher, and she finds this much more effective and enjoyable. For example, Walker often inserts multiple short video clips into her General Psychology lessons. When teaching about inattentional blindness, for instance, Walker shows a video clip where basketball players pass a ball; the students are so focused on the basketball that they entirely miss the gorilla walking behind the players. Dr. Walker’s students probably don’t know, she says, about her extensive background in research and animal behavior, about all the hard work involved in that, or that she practically “lived in flip-flops for six years” researching dolphins.
In her spare time Walker enjoys singing in the praise team at Crossroads Community Church in Summerville and spending time with her husband, Josh, and their two-year-old daughter, Emma Grace. Walker loves “anything outside where Emma can explore and learn new things.” Walker admits she is “very conscientious of students’ progress.” She reaches out to students who need assistance. If she can be proactive, initially helping those who need it, she can prevent obstacles later on. Although, as Walker admits, this “takes lots of time and energy,” anyone who has witnessed her contagious smile and liveliness knows that she is definitely up for it.