This week’s faculty spotlight features Dr.Traci Thompson, professor of English and head of the Hardin-Simmons University Department of English.
Dr.Thompson is one who has a passion for her work, her family and her students. At the University of Southwestern Louisiana, Dr. Thompson completed her Master of Arts in 1993 and a Doctor of Philosophy in 1996, both in English studies. She then accepted a position with HSU in 1997.
“[The community at HSU] means everything,” Dr. Thompson said. “I’m in awe every day of my colleagues who contribute to such a talented faculty. There are many faculty who are no longer here because they have retired who were very, very kind to me… I did not have my family close by, and there were many faculty and staff who stepped in and were my family, and lifelong friendships formed with many of my colleagues.”
Much of Dr. Thompson’s family, aside from her husband and son who are with her in Abilene, lives in Iowa where she was raised. For Dr. Thompson, the education route for her career came naturally. Participation in programs during higher education as well as her family’s history were contributing factors to leading her to where she is now.
“My dad was an educator. He was a high school math teacher and football coach for years… so education was always very important in our family,” Dr. Thompson said. Although she did not follow exactly in her dad’s footsteps, Dr. Thompson feels that she has found her niche in the education world.
“I’m a really strong advocate for my discipline because I think it’s a discipline that helps you learn to think critically and to learn to support what your argument is…” Dr. Thompson said. “You have to be reflective. It forces you to examine your whole life.”
This passion is also shared by her colleagues, and the phrase “education enlightened by faith” has been impactful for Dr. Thompson. Abilene Hall might not have been Dr. Thompson’s favorite building physically, but the inside was a space she shares with faculty who have become like family to her. For example, Dr. Jason King was one of Dr. Thompson’s students and he now works alongside her in the English Department.
Dr. Thompson enjoys connecting with her students, both inside and outside of the classroom. Attending fine arts performances and athletic games are just two examples of how she continues to build her relationships as she recognizes her own students on the football field and on the stage in Van Ellis Theatre. The size and environment of HSU allow her to have these experiences.
“I’ve tried to imagine myself in a context that isn’t Christian education, and I can’t. I can’t imagine what that would be like, not just for my colleagues, but for the students as well and the atmosphere on campus,” Dr. Thompson said.
After years of experience and time building relationships with those who take her classes, Dr. Thompson wants to witness their success and know that her students’ influence will go beyond the doors of her classroom.
“I think that my piece of advice to [students] is to be intentional and deliberate in the work that you do. Don’t just rush through it, don’t just… do it halfway, don't do it without a purpose… and enjoy it,” Dr. Thompson said. “We tend to take things that are difficult and try to rush through them just to get past them just as fast as we can. Because nobody wants to linger in something that feels uncomfortable… but if you are really intentional about solving that problem, or coming up with a solution, or working through that challenge, the satisfaction of having done that to the best of your ability… will make you forget about all the other stuff.”
Dr. Thompson has undoubtedly shown this intentionality in her work and relationships, and she is one who contributes to the welcoming, family environment that is an unofficial HSU trademark.