While the top of most people’s brag list of famous encounters consists of actors and musicians, Dr. Scott Tarnowieckyi is proud to have met Pulitzer Prize winner James M. McPherson.
“While many might not know him, he is arguably the greatest living historian on the American Civil War,” Tarnowieckyi said. “He is a pretty cool and humble guy for someone who has won basically every major award on Civil War history.”
Tarnowiecyki, Associate Professor of History and Social Sciences Department Chair at Weatherford College, latched on to history as a child and his parents nurtured his interest.
“[They] started bringing home books for me that dealt with the American Civil War and the like,” he said. “Without realizing it, I was eating it all up and wanting to find out more and more.”
In high school, Tarnowieckyi found another passion, running. At first he was intimidated at the prospect of joining a college track team as coaches began recruiting him, but he set aside his fear of failure and committed to the challenge of running track at Missouri Southern State University.
“Running four years of college track made me a much stronger person and made me realize that if I was willing to work hard enough, never quit and overcome obstacles, I could accomplish my goals, which is what I have done,” he said. “I ran sprints, long jumped and triple jumped. So I am knowledgeable in running in circles and jumping into sandpits; skills that translate well into academia.”
Working towards his career goals began in a Joplin, Missouri McDondald’s where Tarnowieckyi worked his first job. His resume since then is impressive. Prior to starting his job at Weatherford College five years ago, Tarnowieckyi was a visiting Assistant Professor at Texas A&M University, visiting Instructor at the University of Arkansas, visiting Assistant Professor at Arkansas Tech University, visiting Assistant Professor at Missouri Southern State University, Master Lecturer at the University of Arkansas, History Instructor at Northwest Arkansas Community College and an editorial assistant for the Arkansas Historical Quarterly.
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“The best part of my job is the fact that I have the opportunity on a daily basis to make a positive difference in the lives of my students and the community,” he said about working at Weatherford College. “I get to help them pursue and, hopefully, fulfill their goals. In addition, I get to teach history, which is something I am very passionate about. So every day I get to wake up and share my passion with others and hopefully make them appreciate it and how the past ultimately impacts them.”
His teaching technique appears to work as his students readily acclimate to his teaching style.
“I love his class,” student Amy Vincik said. “He is very interesting and lets you know what he expects up front.”
“He can be very entertaining in the classroom,” student Kimberley Sewell said. “He truly cares about his students’ education and pushes them to newer levels to better prepare them for the universities.”
With his vast academic background, Tarnowieckyi is no stranger to teaching in lecture halls bursting with more than 200 students. Teaching classes that large restricted how well he could know his students and limited what he could expect from them, he said. But at Weatherford College, he has come to know his students on a first-name basis and feels he provides a higher quality education.
“That improved quality gives WC students an edge against their peers when they transfer to universities to complete their junior and senior level work,” he said.
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Between lectures, Tarnowieckyi has spent time as a faculty co-sponsor for the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and encourages all students who are invited to join and participate with the organization as much as possible. He is an avid supporter of campus life and the importance is holds for students’ success.
“Campus life is extraordinarily important,” he said. “The much higher graduation rates of students who get involved on campus versus those who do not is incredible. In addition, getting involved on campus creates a built-in set of friends who have similar interests and gives the new students a group of people they can turn to for advice as they try to maneuver their way through college.
“College is not merely about what goes on in the classroom; it is also about growing and developing yourself outside the classroom. Far too often I see students who simply show up for class and then seem to flee the campus as quickly as they can. They are just squandering so many opportunities by doing that and probably making their college experience far less rewarding and fulfilling. So many students today are so busy living their lives on their cell phones that they are forgetting to live.”
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