Featured Teacher: Jennifer Hunt
Jennifer Hunt, MPH, CMRP (AHA-CC), RHA/ACLFA works with the College of Public Health
as a Lecturer and MPH Advisor.
A turning point in Jennifer Hunt’s teaching came when she began to see teaching as
a kind of conversation. In a conversation, both sides play an important role. Though
the teacher may do more of the talking, the students have an important say as well.
The conversational approach helps Hunt come out from behind the podium, meet students
where they are and help them make meaningful connections with class content and each
other. Conversation is also about caring. Jennifer puts a lot of attention into making
her classroom one students want to walk into, one in which they feel immediately welcome
and safe. Creating this kind of environment allows the messy but real elements of
learning to emerge. This involves equal parts humility and humor. “I admit my own
mistakes and limitations and show them I am human just like them. This helps them
see they can do this too, and we can have some fun along the way!”
In her four years with the College of Public Health she has rarely done the same thing
twice. As soon as she began teaching she poured herself into professional development
opportunities and soon found a rich vein of research and best-practices to consider
and adapt to her teaching. “It is a bit overwhelming at first, but every year I get
a little braver in making small changes.” These changes are always in the direction
of increasing student engagement and active learning. Small changes might be a new
way of organizing groups, presenting examples from the field, incentivizing participation,
or just getting students to talk. She typically follows the fifteen minute rule, chunking
content lectures and interspersing opportunities for student feedback and activity.
Sometimes small changes lead to larger innovation projects, such as when she successfully
flipped a strategic planning class often perceived as rather tedious by students.
The flipped class model allows teachers to devote more class time to problem solving,
discussion, and structured group work.
Group work is one of the most important parts of any class Hunt teaches and she devotes
considerable attention and organizational acumen to making students in her groups
work well with each other. Using online survey tools and spreadsheets, she brings
together individuals whose interests, personalities, and schedules sufficiently overlap.
Within groups, each member is assigned a role and held accountable by having other
members do peer evaluations which are figured into the overall grade for the project.
One reason she goes to such lengths is that she knows from experience the importance
of “soft skills” employers seek from graduates and she wants to give her students
ample opportunity to develop these essential communication and empathy skills.
Her experiences working in various roles in the healthcare industry informs her teaching
practice. Graduates from Public Health go on to careers in roles such as hospital
management, healthcare marketing, public health departments, and nonprofits. Hunt
believes the time for students to start thinking and acting like professionals is
now and so she designs her classes to include practical applications, case studies,
and current events. Her guiding question for course design is: “What would I want
to see if I was a student in this course?” One senior level course she has taught
focused on current events in healthcare management and policy. Her approach here was
to spend one class period introducing a particular issue and pre-assessing student
background knowledge. For the next session an invited guest speaker with related professional
experience would present their perspectives and invite discussion. Toward the end
of the semester, students would group up and focus on an issue important to them and
present it to the class.
The work Jennifer does in the classroom extends far beyond it. As both a lecturer
and graduate advisor, she mentors and guides students both inside and outside the
classroom, and students love her for it. As undergraduate Public Health major Casey
Lunceford says, “Ms. Hunt goes beyond the normal duties of an instructor to ensure
we, as students, are getting a world-class education. I have had the privilege of
having her not only as a professor, but as a mentor and role-model during my academic
career. No matter the situation or circumstances, Ms. Hunt works hard to make us successful
students in-and-outside-of the classroom by acknowledging our academic and personal
lives and feats. She embodies the true qualities of a great professor."
By Phil Smith
The Center for Teaching Excellence will feature a different faculty member each month.
If you'd like to nominate a teacher to be featured on the site, contact Phil Smith.
See past featured teachers here.