Showing Students She Cares: Jennifer Ramsay

By Jared Rosenberg, Nicholas Kobel and Patrick Maheen:

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Her students describe her as ambitious. “I wanted to be an astronaut,” was the first thing Ramsay said when Brockport Beat asked her to describe herself.

Ramsay’s desk is covered in papers. Her drawers overflow with manila folders, knickknacks crowd her shelves. One in particular, a Jewish camel, sticks out. Her students gave it to her outside of Jerusalem on an excavation in the summer of 2017.

Looking back at that summer and the rag tag group of students she brought to Israel, some anthropology majors, some not, one specific student sticks out. With no plans of going on to be an archaeologist and no plans to study abroad he was two weeks late on his deposit. He asked Ramsay for advice. “Can I still go on the dig?” “Of course,” Ramsay replied. Pulling out all the stops and proving to be a professor who would go the extra mile for her students, Ramsay came through and made sure it was possible for the young man to join her and his fellow students on the summer excavation in Israel.

This was the first step in a laundry list of good deeds that would earn Ramsay the camel on her shelves. “I’ve always been able to feel for (students),” she said. “I’ve always been able to understand what they were going through. When I was their age I went through it, and I’m not going to punish them for missing class for work.” Ramsay quickly proved why she was a better candidate than most to receive this year’s Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award from the Archaeological Institute of America.

Ramsay doesn’t recognize the way she teaches as special. “I don’t know if I teach differently or if I have a teaching style that helps people connect with me. It’s definitely not ‘special.’ I just want students to know that they matter,” she said.

Ramsay mentions an introductory-level student with whom she made a particular connection. “She had missed a couple classes. That wasn’t normal for her. She’s a great student. Took notes, always raised her hand, and never missed class before,” Ramsay said. “So when she was absent I sent her an email asking about it. She immediately responded. She was so grateful I reached out—and so apologetic.

“She came to my office hours and talked with me for hours. She was just so happy I reached out. No other professor had done that for her.”

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