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ECU prof the go-to guy for stumped students

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A Snapchat photo taken Oct. 5 of ECU accounting professor Douglas Schneider, left, working with his students at Joyner Library went viral after being posted on Twitter.

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By Michael Abramowitz
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Late-night cramming sessions at the campus library are nothing new for college students everywhere. A group of East Carolina University accounting students preparing for an exam last week sent out an SOS from Joyner Library to their professor, hoping he would reply to their emergency email. They got more than a reply — they got him, live at the library.

A stunned student, Marissa Flood, Snapchatted a photo of their generous professor, Douglas Schneider, sitting with the students, and time-stamped it at 11:10 p.m. “When ur confused and email ur professor and he comes to the library to help you study... AWWW,”  read the message, with an accompanying tweet: “Sometimes ya just gotta appreciate professors who do everything possible to help you succeed.”

The photo has since gone viral, producing nearly 7,000 retweets, more than 37,000 likes and multiple media reports.

Schneider, an Edwin B. Jones Family Endowed Professor of Accounting in ECU’s College of Business, gave his straightforward view of the situation Thursday in a phone interview.

“The students are definitely worth my time and my best effort,” he said. “You have to care about students and want to help them succeed and have a positive future.” 

The professor shrugged off his visit to the library as a normal part of a teacher’s job in the modern university online learning culture.

“I’ve always encouraged my students to email me. They’re certainly not bothering me, and besides, I happened to be working late in my office that night,” Schneider said. “It was no hardship for me to go over to the library.”

He also viewed the experience as part of a cultural shift in university education.

“When ECU made a major commitment to providing online education, it seemed to change some of the culture from being an 8-to-5 environment to being a somewhat longer workday,” Schneider said. “People can be involved in teaching longer into the day, and even on weekends. 

That explanation, however, refers to improved teacher accessibility through the online teaching platform, which Schneider said he does less of than other professors.

“I’m more of the in-person teaching type,” he said. “And I don’t feel that I’m the only one who’s deserving of recognition. There are a great many people who work tirelessly for ECU and do so anonymously. I wish they would receive recognition.”

Schneider said teaching at the university is more than just a job to him.

“It’s a calling that’s with me 24/7,” he said. “There’s not a moment when I feel completely separated from my calling at ECU. I also think it’s important to get to know my students as people, because that understanding of their ambitions and concerns raises my commitment level. That means you have to be available for them in many ways.”

Testing is a way of life for accounting students, so Schneider provides lots of practice tests to help his students develop exam-taking skills, particularly for the granddaddy of them all, the 16-hour Certified Public Accounting Exam.

“The nationwide standard is for students to practice for that exam, so I try to include opportunities to hone those skills,” he said. “The typical intermediate accounting book is about 1,300 pages, so I try to present the material in a way that helps them follow the lecture. Even if there are diverse learning styles, everyone can follow along and understand it, then it’s just a matter of the student putting in the effort to learn.”

Schneider adds value to his students’ choice of professor by writing letters of recommendation to graduate schools or prospective employers, helping with scholarship searches and supporting their other ECU campus experiences.

“It’s a way for me to be a successful faculty member,” he said.

Among his extracurricular activities, Schneider is co-founding adviser of Beta Alpha Psi’s ECU chapter and founding adviser of the ECU chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants. He serves as Treasurer of the Delta Omicron Housing Corporation and is an advocate for the general welfare of all Greek students at ECU.

Schneider’s approach to teaching has not gone unrecognized by his peers. In 2015 Schneider was awarded the Distinguished Professor for Teaching Award by the UNC Board of Governors.

Perhaps the closest description of Schneider came from his niece, Victoria Kendel, who saw the tweet and responded, “This is my uncle, and this absolutely melts my heart cause he loves what he does and he loves his students.”

Contact Michael Abramowitz at mabramowitz@reflector.com or 252-329-9507.

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