Faculty member discusses honors program

By Rachel Ingram  – ringram@unca.edu – Copy Desk Chief | Nov. 10, 2014 |

During his college years at University of Denver, Patrick Bahls, associate professor of mathematics and director of the honors program, always did his homework and never missed a class.

“I was the guy who went to class on his deathbed,” he said. According to him, not much has changed.

In the spring semester of his second year at UNC Asheville, he was extremely ill for about a month, but stubbornly continued to teach classes.  At the end of the year, one of his students wrote on his evaluation that he needed to take time off and stay in bed because he was so sick.

Fast forward eight years, and he is running the university honors program.

Of his 10 years spent as a faculty member, he said, “I’m just getting used to the fact that I’m not the new guy anymore.”

He said his favorite part of working in the honors program is the opportunity to expand his work beyond math, although he loves teaching calculus II.

“Being in the honors program is fantastic because I get to work with faculty from across the university, students from across the university,” Bahls said. “There are no interdisciplinary boundaries.”

He said he has overseen undergraduate research projects in social psychology, neuro-psychology, rhetoric, linguistics and semiotics. His own current research projects include visual rhetoric, writing pedagogy and honors program administration.

He said he wants his students to learn how to learn.

“I take lifelong learning seriously, so all of my classes, whether they’re math classes, honors capstone courses, honors special topic seminars, whatever the topic — they’re student-centered, problem-based, inquiry-based,” Bahls said.

He said he tries to let students control the pace, content and structure of each of his courses.

“I am there as a guide, a facilitator because students need to become their own engines of discovery,” he said.

The flipped classroom style of teaching is unfamiliar to many students, according to Bahls.

“In today’s standardized test-driven primary and secondary school environment, the students are not often used to this kind of pedagogy,” he said.   

He expects his students to solve the problems in the classroom, but is understanding of the adjustment students never exposed to that style of teaching will have to make.

“That juncture is sometimes a rough one,” Bahls said.

When he isn’t teaching, he keeps busy with numerous hobbies.

“I’ve rounded myself out a good bit since college,” Bahls said.

In college, he focused on math, science and languages. Since arriving at UNCA, he has developed more interests.

On Mondays, he participates in a bowling league.

“We call ourselves a drinking league with a bowling problem,” he said.

He said he also enjoys writing poetry.

“I’ve gotten about a dozen, maybe two dozen poems published in various literary journals now,” Bahls said.  According to him, he is compiling a collection of his works for publication.

Bahls’ wide range of interests which include running, canoeing and reading are a reflection of the diversity he appreciates in his role with the honors program and his ability to interact with students from a multitude of academic programs.

“There’s so much more out there that’s interesting to look at, interesting to study,” he said.

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