Tompkins Cortland Community College

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Kelly Wessell

The place to teachKelly Wessell


Kelly Wessell has a Ph.D. in aquatic entomology and could be in many places on a cold December day, but he is here in rubber boots and a knit hat holding an aquatic net, headed outside and toward the pond on Tompkins Cortland Community College's campus. "Getting some bugs," he says, and his infant son he's just retrieved from the College's childcare walks along with him in his rubber boots and knit hat. Kelly Wessell could be anywhere, he could be at a major research university center racking up credentials and gravitas to come in handy at dinner parties and wine tastings. But he is here at Tompkins Cortland getting some bugs before the holiday break. "I only applied to community colleges," says Kelly, who has his Ph.D. from Michigan State University. "I wanted to be able to teach. I've done research, and I know I do not want to be a researcher. I want to teach. And I don't see Tompkins Cortland as a stepping stone. I want to be here."

Kelly is active at the College outside of the biology department, serving first on the Foundations of Excellence Committee, and now leading the way in the College's sustainability efforts. "I've never felt as supported at my job as I here," he says. "I've never asked for anything that administrators weren't able to give, or at least explain in detail why it wasn't possible. As faculty, we are very lucky to be here at Tompkins Cortland." And that support, Kelly says, allows him to focus on creative teaching methods, and also to focus on the unique makeup of his classes. "The range in backgrounds and abilities here is greater than the range you might find at a larger institution or university, but the reward is also greater, and I find the appreciation for this opportunity on the part of most students is greater, as well. It really is a rewarding environment."