On the first day of racquetball class, sophomore Daniel Pollock did not realize that his instructor already knew his mother. But Rodney Johnson, the director of Parent Services, never misses the ball – on the court or in his office.
“It’s not embarrassing,” said Pollock of his mother’s conversations and familiarity with Johnson. “He’s a really nice guy and it’s a good connection to have.”
Thirty-one members of GW’s administration – a group including directors, assistant deans and vice presidents – have taken on additional roles as faculty in the classroom as of 2005, according to the Office of Institutional Research.
Though Johnson spends most of his time heading the Parent Services program, he also teaches racquetball for the exercise science department.
“Any interaction that I can have with students is important,” said Johnson, who started his career at GW 21 years ago as an assistant coach for the men’s basketball team.
Johnson said that 12 years ago, the exercise science department approached him about teaching a racquetball class, and since then he has taught as many as four sections of the class at a time.
Another administrator teaching a class in the exercise science department is Director of the Student Activities Center Tim Miller, who instructs a one-credit hiking course during the fall, and a three credit outdoor education class in the spring.
“I’ve definitely had students show up and not realize I’ve been a teacher,” said Miller, who grew up in Woodbridge, Va., just south of D.C. near the Occoquan River. Miller said that he has always liked teaching and that his mother and brother are also teachers.
“(In the) long term I hope to teach much more,” he said.
Like Johnson, Miller said his work as an administrator occupies most of his time.
“My full-time job with the University is my priority, and having that position affords me the opportunity to teach,” Miller wrote in an e-mail last week.
Vice President for Communications Michael Freedman said he enjoys teaching even if he does not spend the majority of his time doing it.
Freedman said he was not sure if he wanted to accept a job at GW when University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg offered it to him more than six years ago.
“It was adding the teaching position that pushed me over the top,” said Freedman, who started at GW in fall 2000 and taught his first class the following semester.
“My teaching is probably my single most rewarding job at GW,” said Freedman, who teaches a course for the School of Media and Public Affairs on radio history.
Senior Curtis Raye, one of Freedman’s students and the host of WRGW’s “The Game Show,” said he signed up for Freedman’s class because he heard good things about it and because he recognized Freedman from his work with the student radio station.
“I had met him once at the radio station and you could tell that he’s one, a good teacher, and two, a good guy to be around,” Raye said.
Freedman said that of the 13 class sessions he has with his students, only four or five are spent on campus, where he teaches in his office in Rice Hall. The rest of class is spent going off campus on field trips to places like WTOP radio and RFK Stadium.
For sophomore David Earl, learning in a vice president’s office is anything but intimidating.
“It’s a lot more comfortable; that’s the truth,” Earl said. “Half the class is sitting around in couches. Half the class is sitting around in chairs and whatnot.”
Raye also said he likes the atmosphere that Freedman’s office provides for a classroom.
“I think it makes the whole experience more personable,” said Raye, who called Freedman’s various radio memorabilia – including a 1950s CBS tape recorder, a 1937 functioning radio, and a UPI teletype machine – “(Freedman’s) toys.”
But despite the unusual classroom setting, Raye said the fact that Freedman is a University vice presidentdoes not usually play into class discussions
“He doesn’t try to flaunt his position as vice president for communications,” Raye said.
When asked about his position at GW, Freedman responded with modesty.
“The class fills up real quickly on registration,” Freedman said. “But I don’t believe for a minute it’s because of who I am.”