Matthew Connolly has been a Geography and Environmental Science Professor at UCA for the past four years, and he has worked as the Environmental Science Track Coordinator.
Connolly said his journey to become a professor was actually by accident.
“I did not grow up knowing I wanted to be a teacher or a professor. That was not on my radar,” Connolly said. “I had an opportunity to get my first taste of teaching in an informal environment the summer between my first and second year of grad school because I needed a job.”
That summer he said he worked as a tour guide on a boat in Texas. Connolly got to lead school groups and others and taught about ecosystems and many other things about the surrounding areas.
“It was awesome. It was one of the best summers, it paid horribly but it was one of the most fun jobs I ever had,” Connolly said.
The following semester he had the opportunity to lead a lab and to get some experience teaching in a formal environment.
Before graduating with his Masters, he evaluated his next step and asked those closest to him for advice.
“One thing that was common was I was happiest when I was teaching people things,” he said.
Connolly took this as a sign to pursue his Doctorate so he could teach at a collegiate level. Connolly said he is doing what he loves and is still passionate about helping students and being a part of the learning process.
“My favorite part about teaching is when you can see a light go on. When a student is struggling with a really difficult concept or idea and they come and they need and I am able to explain, I can see it on their face when they get it,” Connolly said. “That’s the joy, when you can see that happen and know that you are a part of it, there is nothing like it.”
Connolly said he is passionate about helping students succeed and make it to their next step.
“My best advice is to make the best possible use of you time at the university. Though it doesn’t always feel like it, the university is a very safe place,” Connolly said. “Even with most hard-nosed professors most of us do the things we do to help you succeed when you leave.”
Connolly said he encourages students to be active on campus, to visit with professors, to take college seriously and to look at it as an investment in yourself.