Ex-University College dean shares love for his subject, students say
Kyven Zhao, The Oklahoma Daily
Douglas Gaffin, recently resigned University College dean, is a passionate professor who has a love for teaching and his subject, students said. Gaffin recently left his position as dean to teach full-time.
Allison Nguyen, environmental science sophomore, went into Gaffin's class in fall 2011 with some trepidation.
“I thought I wasn’t going to like it,” she said.
However, after taking the class, Nguyen admitted it was her favorite of that year. She said his passion for the field is clear.
“I think you can tell how much he loves zoology. He lives and breathes it,” she said.
Gaffin has been teaching zoology at OU since 1995. He became dean of University College in 2002.
“Right out of college, I wanted to become a forest manager,” he said. “However, the job market was tough back then.”
People started to ask him if he had ever thought about teaching, he said, so he went back to school and became certified to teach in California. He taught high school and middle school science for three years and loved it, he said.
His brother sparked his interest in graduate school when he showed him the intricate way a bee flies back to its hive, Gaffin said.
Following this spark, Gaffin quit his job high school teacher. He took a position at Oregon State University, where his graduate adviser intrigued him with the study of scorpions, he said.
While at Oregon State, Gaffin met his wife, Marielle Hoefnagels, whom he considers to be the biggest influence on his life.
“She’s a superstar,” he said.
Both moved to OU, where they received teaching positions. After seven years, Gaffin became University College Dean, a position from which Gaffin helped the college acquire its current building, Lissa and Cy Wagner Hall.
Gaffin, along with the Graduation Rates Task Force, performed a study of schools ahead of OU in college rankings. Their study determined that the schools all had a centralized student learning center, Gaffin said.
Boren then made a proposal to donors, and Lissa and Cy Wagner provided the namesake donation, Gaffin said.
Gaffin considers Lissa and Cy Wagner Hall his greatest accomplishment as dean, he said.
Now that Gaffin has resigned from his position as dean, he said he plans to take his first sabbatical since coming to OU. On his sabbatical, he said he will go to New Mexico to continue his research on scorpions and their pheromones.
Then he plans to go to the University of Sussex with his wife to catch up on the latest research on bees, the insect that sparked his journey into further education, he said.
While on sabbatical, Gaffin assures he will be working on his class to make it more interactive and will resume teaching in fall 2013.
“Teaching is my first duty to this university,” Gaffin said.
This was clear to Catherine Thompson, geography senior. She said she advises students to take his class, even if they aren’t required to.
“If you have time to, sit in on a class,” she said.
Thompson said his class was one of her favorites, even though she does not usually enjoy science classes.
Gaffin also offers students sound advice for their futures.
“Do what you love; just endure,” he said.