Driving to a Suffolk Wal-Mart wearing a hoodie, jeans and Vans, Mozell Person got the phone call of his dreams.
Tidewater Community College wanted to interview him to be an adjunct psychology professor.
“When?” he asked excitedly.
“Now,” he was told.
A resident of North Carolina, Person didn’t have time to go home, so he made a U-turn toward TCC’s Portsmouth Campus.
Despite “dressing down,” – “I kept apologizing but the dean told me not to worry about it,” – Person got the job and a year later was hired as a full-time professor. Today he is the psychology lead on the Portsmouth Campus and coordinator for First College Success.
“I like the diverse group of students we have at TCC,” he said. “We have students from so many different backgrounds and educational levels. I like the small class sizes here and that I can build relationships with my students.”
His classroom is as dynamic as his Twitter presence. Person is The Psyc Guy @mperson24 and isn’t hesitant to use social media as a classroom tool, a method he shared with his colleagues at a recent TCC continuing education series.
Twitter and Instagram assignments have become a regular part of his syllabus when teaching high school students taking part in the First College program.
“It’s a great way to reach them. I try to stay current with YouTube and Instagram,” he said. “I try to incorporate as much of real-world social media into my lectures.”
Initially a biology/premed major at Chowan University, Person realized during a sophomore physics class that he didn’t want to be a pediatric oncologist after all. He turned to the field that has appealed to him since his youth and fascinates him even today.
“When I was an adolescent, all of my friends would come to me to vent,” he said. “I felt like I was innately gifted to facilitate conversations. I was always giving them advice.”
He survived 18-plus credits and summer classes to ensure an on-time graduation with his bachelor’s in psychology.
Person tried private practice but gravitated toward teaching. “For me, teaching is more influential,” he said. “I have the ability to influence and to impact at least 200 people a semester. Those students will take with them not just the course principles but life principles.”
As First College Success coordinator, Person mentors many of the high school students who come into the program with a GPA under 3.0, ensuring they follow a plan to be successful at TCC. He enjoys the give and take by the students, many of whom stay in touch with him long after graduation.
Someday Person hopes to be a college president to use his people skills to build the types of collaborative relationships needed to achieve at that level.
“My grandmother lived to be 107, and she told me she’s never worried about me because I know how to make a friend,” he said. “I know no stranger when I go to different places, and I work well with all kinds of people.”
Person is nearing completion of his dissertation on active learning in the 21st century classroom at Regent University and plans to graduate with his doctorate in higher education in 2017.
In his free time, Person is active in his church in Weldon, N.C., his hometown. When he’s not finishing up his dissertation, he relaxes by watching horror movies on Netflix.