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How Faculty Prepared for the Fall Semester: Dr. Bryan McCarthy

by Nicole Cortino

Dr. Bryan McCarthy, visiting instructor in philosophy, graduated from Pitt-Greensburg in 2002. Soon after, he earned his doctorate degree in philosophy. He is writing a book based on his studies as he continues to teach. He’s interested in drawing, learned the tango, and practices yoga. Most recently, he’s picked up a new hobby of learning how to identify unusual plants and fungi while hiking.

Dr. Bryan McCarthy has taught online classes, but never in synchronous form. Although he’s taught online before, he firmly believes there’s room for improvement.

“Even though I had used Canvas in the past, I went to the training over the summer because there’s always something new I can learn. I’m always working to improve. Each semester I have something I plan to focus on,” Dr. McCarthy said. “So, one semester I may say, ‘I’m going to work on delivery and approach,’ where I want to make sure not to say ‘um’ too much, or go on any tangents. ‘This semester will be the semester where there are finally no more tangents!’ I’ll say to myself. Or maybe this semester I focus on my compassion, where I’ll listen more to the students and I try to be more understanding.”

He is currently teaching four classes involving philosophy and the origins of religion. All of his courses are currently hybrid, but in a few of them, no one attends in-person classes, so they’re completely online. 

Dr. McCarthy is grateful for the lack of stress he’s experienced so far. He says in some ways, it’s easier for him. 

“For the classes that are completely online, there’s never a time where I have to say ‘okay, I have to stop what I’m doing so I can get in my car and drive to campus.’ I just have to make sure I’m prepared to log on,” he said.  

He is understanding, acknowledging that although his classrooms are empty, most students are looking forward to returning to campus when they can, just like him. Therefore, he strategically only requires his students to turn on their cameras when the class is more discussion-oriented, which is two out of four of the classes he teaches.  

“I accept that there are some advantages to learning at home and allow the students to have those advantages. I can’t enforce them to do anything anyways,” he said, “as long as they are participating during discussions and are demonstrating active learning when the opportunity arises.” 

The one thing Dr. McCarthy is most looking forward to after the COVID-19 pandemic is the social aspect of in-person activities. 

“I’m looking forward to going back. I like the full classroom and the in-person interactions with then students. I like the physical feedback and the laughter. But the biggest thing I’m looking forward to is for the world to open back up,” he said.

Dr. McCarthy is an extravert. He enjoys meeting new people, and he especially enjoys spontaneity. Since half of his classes are highly engaging, and he’s taught online before, there are “greater gaps in other parts of [his] life compared to teaching.”  

Typically, Dr. McCarthy finds new hobbies to invest in, and he goes to local groups focused on that activity. The pandemic took that away. 

“People are everywhere. They’re shopping, driving, going to work, but you’re not allowed to do anything fun. There’s nothing scheduled,” he said. “You can shop! But that’s it. No one loves it, but I try to roll with the punches.” 

While the opportunity for in-person events have been restricted, Dr. McCarthy persists in adventure.  

“I have a Zoom event I’m part of on Thursdays, which is neat because some people have started migrating to calling to strengthen connections with people I wouldn’t have thought to call,” he said.

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  1. How Faculty Prepared for the Fall Semester: Pitt to the Power of One – The Insider

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