Faculty Spotlight: Chris Jones

The art of teaching mathematics is certainly that – an art – and Professor Chris Jones is a master artist. He's been guiding students to visualize math with a new mindset here at Harford since 2006. Chris started at Harford as a learning assistant in the Learning Center in 2003. It's where he developed a passion for teaching math in a more meaningful way. Now, as a full-time faculty member in the STEM division, his wide range of mathematics courses includes GED classes, transitional mathematics courses, Calculus I, II & III, Introduction to Statistics, Elementary Differential Equations, Discrete Structures, and Numerical Methods. He also teaches the Honors Introduction to Leadership course.

It's no secret that Professor Jones is dedicated to student success. He's often mentioned when current students and alumni talk about their positive experiences at Harford; he's had a lasting impact on numerous students. Math is one of those subjects that many students are fearful of, but Chris makes it a point to teach in a nonthreatening manner and infuse humor while teaching these difficult subjects to a diverse population. Instead of taking a "one size fits all" approach, his goal is to meet everyone where they are. He understands that the classroom experience is especially important. In addition, Professor Jones' positive disposition and belief in his students' abilities to overcome academic challenges is truly evident. One of his favorite quotes is by Albert Einstein: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." He says, "This reminds me that if one of my students is having difficulty, I need to change my instruction and also need to help the student find a different study strategy that helps them to be successful."

Math can no longer be taught where students sit and follow along with the teacher — students need to be actively involved. In Chris' classroom, they share ideas and engage with each other on what they’ve learned. He also continually ties in real-world concepts to his teaching, knowing that students who succeed feel that their classes are relevant and engaging and that their professors genuinely care about their learning and their success. Chris truly embodies the philosophy of "putting students first."

All students, not just STEM majors, feel comfortable visiting Professor Jones during office hours for questions and explanations of complex problems. Working with his students one-on-one is a highlight for him. As mentor and advisor, he provides information on planning their course schedules, transfer options, scholarship opportunities, and leadership initiatives. He helps them make informed choices about their future careers. He'll also remind students of on-campus activities, trips and other experiential learning opportunities sponsored by the Office of Student Life. Chris currently serves as a faculty mentor to students participating in the National Science Foundation's S-STEM program. He also takes great pride in helping students develop scientific research and works with them to present that research at local and state conferences.

Harford's STEM Day is a highlight of the academic year and thanks to Chris, this event was made possible two years in a row. STEM Day is a free symposium that celebrates HCC's STEM students and faculty with scientific sessions and presentations of their research in their given fields of interest. The event not only showcases student and faculty projects and research but provides updates about Harford's STEM programs. "I envisioned STEM Day as a way for students to immerse themselves in the idea of scholarship, get their toes wet, learn about professional organizations, and learn from each other. I wanted them to feel empowered after participating." The event is always well attended with prospective high school age students, their parents and members of the community.

Professor Jones' service to the College is exemplary. As a mentor to both full- and part-time faculty both in and outside the STEM division, he shares his experiences and knowledge to ultimately better the student experience and help his fellow faculty members. As lead faculty for the dual enrollment transitional math program with Harford County Public Schools, Chris meets regularly with HCPS faculty and staff, and has for about 10 years now, to address concerns, provide updates and training and develop the curriculum that’s taught in all of the high schools.

As Coordinator for Harford's Honors Program, Professor Jones has strengthened the program to be the enriched academic experience it's meant to be at a college level. He works with a number of his colleagues to ensure that the curriculum is challenging and that students are provided numerous scholarship, transfer, and leadership opportunities. The program currently has its highest enrollment in the history of the program.

He is the current chair of the Faculty Honors Advisory Board as well as the current advisor for the Honors Student Council. He currently serves on the Steering Committee for the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), a multi-disciplinary collaboration for faculty development, communication, innovation, and coordination of teaching and learning activities designed to improve student outcomes. He also serves on the executive board for the National Organization for Student Success – Maryland Chapter as well as the executive board for the Maryland Collegiate Honors Council.

Chris' past service posts at Harford have included faculty advisor for Phi Beta Kappa during which the honor society received its five-star status, chairperson for the General Education Committee, and he presented as well as coordinated professional development programs for the College. Chris is a former member of Faculty Council and led the redesign of the Transitional Mathematics Curriculum.

There is no substitute for hard work and the long list of accomplishments attained by Professor Jones proves it. Chris has delivered both mathematics-focused and pedagogical-focused presentations at local, state, and national conferences. He’s conducted mathematical research that was published in peer-reviewed journals. He was the recipient of the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development Award (2011) as well as the Harford Outstanding Adviser of the Year Award (2012) and the League for Innovation in the Community College John and Suanne Rouche Award (2014). Most recently, while attending the 2018 American Association of Community College's conference in Texas, he was awarded the Dale P. Parnell Award. The award is given to individuals making a difference in the classroom and Chris was recognized for his excellence in teaching, leadership and service, a well-deserved honor for which he was nominated and selected by his fellow colleagues at HCC.

Taking on so many roles and being there for so many students, how does Chris find the time to do it all? This professed "early bird" optimizes his time by starting his day at 5 a.m., ensuring he divides his time between his curriculum planning, research, projects, and all of his other roles, leaving enough time to spend with his girlfriend and her son. Chris also enjoys skiing, softball, disc golf, playing guitar, writing music, and exploring unique parts of the PA-DE-MD region. Most people don't know that he started out in college as a music major!

Harford is certainly glad he chose teaching college-level mathematics as a career. His passion for math is "equal to or greater than" his passion for his students and there is no doubt he's inspired many students to pursue important careers in STEM. Chris now takes his rightful place as a Harford Faculty Spotlight honoree.