Joyce McCauley Among 2023 Distinguished Professor Honorees
Sept. 21, 2023
SHSU Media Contact: Mikah Boyd
Joyce McCauley has dedicated the past 54 years of her life to uplifting future generations through the power of education. Twenty-eight of those years have been with Sam Houston State University. She has spent countless hours conducting research in her field and finding ways to enhance the student learning experience, earning her the title of 2023 Distinguished Professor.
The title is bestowed upon faculty members at SHSU who have outstanding achievements in their disciplines, receive national recognition for their scholarly contributions and demonstrate valuable service to their field of study.
“I think back to when I was a child and dreamed of someday becoming a teacher,” McCauley said. “I never thought, in my wildest dreams, that after 54 years in that profession, I would be honored with such a prestigious award. I am absolutely thrilled and incredibly humbled to receive this award!”
McCauley started her teaching journey in an elementary school, shaping young minds for the road ahead. Her degree in elementary education from the University of South Florida provided her with the skills she needed to begin teaching in Guam, where she earned a master’s in reading in 1973.
Equipped with the credentials and passion for post-secondary education necessary for success, McCauley became an instructor at the University of Guam just a year after earning her master’s there. She taught at the university for 20 years, leading courses in the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Education. Her work there was recognized in 1998 when she was named professor emeritus.
In 1994, McCauley came to Texas and was hired as an assistant professor in SHSU’s College of Education, joining the ranks of many prestigious faculty and staff members in one of the best education colleges in the state. By 2006 she was promoted to professor and was well-loved by her students who highly valued her in-depth lessons.
“Traditionally, a faculty member’s work at a university is chopped up into three areas: teaching, research and service. And, as a young faculty member, I believed in that separation and dutifully placed pieces of my work in each category,” McCauley said of her early years teaching at the university level.
By 2010, she was offered a new opportunity that would shake up her ideas around teaching altogether; McCauley was tasked with establishing the Center for Community Engagement (CCE). The CCE helps connect SHSU with businesses and organizations in the region, allowing students to work with these groups in real ways while working on course credits through Academic Community Engagement (ACE) courses. Since its founding, the CCE has maintained SHSU’s status as a community-engaged campus recognized nationally by the Carnegie Foundation.
“What began as just me in my small office in the College of Education has grown into a large space with three full-time staff, one student worker and another part-time professor from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences,” McCauley said, reflecting on her time going from founding the CCE to serving as its executive director. “What a journey this has been, and now, at last, teaching, research and service are all wrapped tightly together into one pot. The lines between the three are blurred, and sometimes I can’t tell the difference.”
Her work with the CCE has proven just as impactful, and some would say even more so, than her work in the classroom. While she continues to lead her students to be great teachers, the CCE has helped professors and students become better community members. Through ACE courses, students have had their eyes opened to different fields or degrees that they can claim to have made an impact on.
McCauley loves to talk about the great work the CCE has done with the community and for the students and is also proud to hear from her own students about how her teaching style has impacted them for the better. In her application for the Distinguished Professor award, McCauley relayed that her former students often reach out and express their gratitude to her for shaping them into quality educators.
“Most of my career has been spent teaching teachers and helping them see beyond content, beyond grades—helping them look at the important things in life that need teaching such as courage, perseverance, justice, service, humility, loyalty, compassion, honesty, humor, patience and trust,” McCauley said. “These are the virtues that give us grounding, that keep us strong, that make a difference. I’m not just teaching students pedagogy, theory and research—I’m helping to develop good citizens, ones who see for themselves how their hard work will reap benefits to society.”
While her students admit her classes are grueling, McCauley has received consistently high ratings each semester and receives emails from former students who are proud to share the achievements and recognitions they receive with her. Even though she herself has been highly decorated throughout the years, McCauley remains steadfast in her dedication to ensuring student success, not just for her students, but for those they will reach.
“It’s a great responsibility that I don’t take lightly,” McCauley said. “This is why I work so hard and make sure I am modeling best practices and that I continuously strengthen my methods and strategies. I’ve got to be good—for all of them.”
McCauley’s sense of responsibility and dedication supporting students and the community have not gone unnoticed. She is one of the 2023 Distinguished Professor recipients, a title truly fitting of the lifelong learner and one that will remain with her for as long as she continues teaching. The university is honored to have professors such as McCauley, who go above and beyond their teaching, service and research.
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