Meet The Staff - Senior Administration

Phone: (423) 545-9578

Dr. Jason Leonard

Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs

Ph.D., Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Bachelor of Science, Biology, Central Connecticut State University
Associate of Science, Liberal Arts, Tunxis Community Technical College

My teaching philosophy:
Far too often have I observed that students have a difficult time posing questions within both the science classroom and laboratory. As a professor, teaching assistant and advisor, students are revealing their level of understanding of the material and of their prospective careers simply by the types of questions they have. As a graduate teaching assistant, one of the first issues I came across was a student that told me ‘I don’t know how to ask the question I want’. While this statement was initially puzzling, I decided to focus my teaching philosophy around this initial problem of a proper question. By listening to students questions both in and out of class, it can provide an accurate assessment of their level of understanding of science in general, as well as provide insights into the problems they may be having in my classes.Using both scientific theory and examples of experimentation when I pose questions to my students during lectures, I show them that I emphasize the applicability of the material to real world situations. While all teachers want their students to think critically, I also want my students to learn in terms of how this topic applies to what they want to accomplish in their careers. Additionally, I want my students to apply what they have learned to ask questions about modern issues in science that they come across in their everyday lives. As an example, in my microbiology class, the topic was biological fermentation. Regardless of their desired profession, I will lead most students in determining how this basic biological process relates to what they will see in the real world, of course, by using questions. Showing the students this process of thinking beyond that material and asking how it applies to each of them raises their understanding of the material and increases their awareness of their true career goals. This is evident in the level of question and the thought process that I see in them toward the end of the semester.

Thoughts about the future of my field:
Biology in general is an ever growing and changing field. The new advances in science and biotechnology are evident in every issue of Scientific American and can be found in virtually every newspaper each day. New genetic methodologies, uncovering new fossils, advances in medicine, and even new discoveries about human physiology make biology a fascinating and challenging topic worth investigation.

Current research and interests:
During the 2010-2011 academic year, I advised a senior student, Ryan Queen, on a capstone project evaluating the Hiwassee College water system from a biological perspective. We were interested to see if any biological contamination existed in the water system and we were happy to report that no such contamination exists.Additionally, in 2010, I published a book chapter for the Encyclopedia of Animal Behavior discussing modern methods for bridging the gap between microevolution and macroevolution, that is, how small genetic changes within a population or species can lead to large phenotypic differences among species or genera.