Beyond the classroom

Jay Pou awarded 2019 M. Stuart Hunter award for outstanding teaching in University 101

For University 101 Instructor, Jay Pou, teaching doesn’t stop when class is over. At the beginning of the Fall 2018 semester, Pou created an Instagram page for his class called @JayPouU101. The Instagram page highlights a variety of content that covers everything from recaps of class topics to interesting facts about the university.

It was the instincts Pou developed during his time as an undergraduate journalism student that inspired him to create the Instagram page.

“Journalism school taught me how to piece details together into a cohesive story that is easily understood by an audience,” says Pou. “I just want to be that ambassador who shows that Carolina’s got all this cool stuff, like too much to even talk about in just one class, so let’s make sure that were seeing that. I don't want this stuff to just die at the end of the day, because this can live on.”

Pou’s unique multimedia approach to teaching U101 is just one of the reasons he landed the 2019 M. Stuart Hunter Award for Outstanding Teaching in University 101. The award recognizes one University 101 instructor who demonstrates exemplary teaching and has made a positive impact on students. The award honors Mary Stuart Hunter, a leader in the first-year experience movement who contributed more than 37 years of service at South Carolina.

In nominating him for the award, one of his former students noted Pou’s commitment to sharing his knowledge and personal anecdotes with his class.

“He is a huge source of wisdom for the class about the university, going through college, and in general going through this different time in our lives,” the nomination read. “Jay has become someone I hope to stay in contact with throughout my college career and beyond.”

Pou, '05 journalism, '10 M.Ed., has spent almost 20 years at the university as an undergraduate and graduate student, University101 instructor and faculty member in University Libraries and psychology and now is the director of student services for the history department. Pou is able to relate to his students from his time at the university and can speak from his own experience as a freshman.

“I may look more modest these days, but in college I was a long-haired guitar-playing rock ’n’ roll musician. I like to share this side of my personality with my students because it amuses them and it humanizes me in their eyes,” says Pou.

Along with sharing stories about his time at South Carolina, Pou is also passionate about sharing the vast history and traditions of the university with his students. Pou’s favorite class to teach is his Horseshoe history tour.

“I help bring the story of the university’s past to life by taking the students to some of the physical locations where it unfolded. They sit in the pews at Rutledge Chapel where their predecessors would have sat 200 years before; they peer over the brick wall where the 1902 riot led to the creation of ‘Tiger Burn’; they gaze at the building where the first African American students broke the color barrier,” Pou says.

Another creative way Pou combines his interests with U101 material is by incorporating music and his guitar with the class.

“One year, I had a guitar-playing peer leader and we teamed up and performed some songs for the class. Another year, I made up a Carolinian Creed-themed song by setting the words of the creed to a song by the band Creed. This year I taught the students how to properly sing ‘We Hail Thee, Carolina’ — the university alma mater,” says Pou.

Pou’s passion for the science behind teaching and learning theory is also helpful for creating a comfortable atmosphere. He likens the classroom to a laboratory for experimenting. Pou experiments by going beyond the classroom with the Instagram page, Horseshoe tour and a group trip to see an independent film at The Nickelodeon theater.

Pou has discovered group discussions and class activities get much stronger following the class movie trip.

“The theater is walking distance, and the brief stroll from campus gives us all a way to chat in an informal way,” Pou says. “These chats, from everything about the movie to school-related issues to life in general, help us move from the awkward ‘I don’t know you that well’ stage to ‘we’re a family; I’m comfortable being myself.’ ”

Pou’s time teaching University 101 has fostered several meaningful connections. Last October, Pou was a groomsman at his first peer leader’s wedding. Pou has even shared the stage with some of his former U101 students.

“Now I play guitar in a band and some of the members are former students of mine. Playing guitar is something I’m always going to talk about in class and at the time they were like ‘Oh, we play too,’ ” Pou recalls. “But then a few years later I get a call from them saying ‘Our guitar player quit and we have a gig coming up, could you fill in?’ ”

Every semester, Pou continues to be impressed by the diverse group of individuals who come through his class and the things they do.

“USC is such a big school with so much diversity. I’ve had athletes in class, people from right around here to people from a very long way away, artsy kids or people trying to start their own business,” says Pou. “They continue to surprise me and teach me that there are always interesting things going on here.”

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