Dr. Catherine Foster just wanted to make some home improvements; she continues to teach 13 years later

Dr. Catherine Foster shares her experiences teaching courses completely online even before the pandemic hit, and how navigating online instruction takes practice

Part time professor Catherine Foster continues to bring her experience to Canisius remotely from Florida

Teaching remotely is not a new concept for Dr. Catherine Foster. After semi-retiring voluntarily in 2017 due to the school’s financial difficulties and cuts to faculty and staff Dr. Foster quickly became accustomed to connecting with students online. She chose this option in order to give other, younger professors the opportunity to continue teaching and because Dr. Dahlberg, the chair of the journalism department, allowed her to continue teaching remotely. She also teaches online classes at the University at Buffalo when she has the option. 

Dr. Foster started teaching part-time — not because she wanted to be in the classroom or because she wanted to connect with students and teach others her skills, but because she needed a new carpet in her house. The head of her MBA program asked if she’d be interested in teaching managerial communication since the usual professor was on maternity leave. The pay she was being offered was nearly identical to the amount it would cost her to install a new carpet. She took the job, paid for her carpet and began to realize that this could turn into a lifelong career. “I fell in love with teaching, and decided to make it my new career,” she said. “I really wanted to teach at a small Catholic college, and fortunately for me, Canisius offered me a teaching position, and I moved to Buffalo in 2007.” 

Dr. Foster worked full-time as a journalist prior to starting her teaching career. She wrote for a newspaper in her hometown while also completing her bachelor’s degree at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She began writing for The Oak Ridger, a newspaper located in Oak Ridge, Tenn. after she received her degree in journalism. She developed an interest in scientific research. “That sparked an increasing interest in science communication, and I decided after several years that I wanted to be an advocate for science, not just report on it,” Foster stated. She received her master’s degree in communications and became the science editor for the News Bureau at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This was her first job in public relations, and Dr. Foster stayed at that job for six years. 

She moved on to a different job, and became a manager of media relations at Argonne National Laboratory, located near Chicago. She remained in school while working, similar to her other jobs, and was able to earn her MBA and her doctorate. 

Teaching remotely has given her the opportunity to move closer to her family. She moved to Florida and was able to afford a townhouse due to the buyout offered by the school and her pension. The townhouse was the perfect fit for her and her cats, as they all enjoy watching the ducks, cranes and egrets that live in the pond just outside of her house. “I hope to continue teaching remotely for as long as possible,” she said. “Not every course works well as remote learning, and it’s an interesting challenge trying to work out the best ways to present course material to students in a way that aids the learning process.” She encourages her students to give her feedback on the courses she teaches, hoping to gauge if they’re happy with how the course is running. 

“When I first started teaching remote classes, I spent a lot of time, especially at the beginning of a term, explaining the process and making sure that students were aware of the expectations for assignments, due dates and the like,” Foster stated. Since most classes, if not all, are now being taught remotely due to the COVID-19, she feels that it is safe to say that students are more aware of online learning and are becoming more familiar with it. “Now that students are more attuned to remote learning they’re checking in with me more often, instead of the other way around, so that’s a change, and one I like,” she said. 

Dr. Foster fully intends to continue with teaching remotely, be it during the pandemic or someday, after it. She plans to read more in the meantime, allocating two hours each day to reading novels, biographies, history and the like. She also has been staying busy by learning how to quilt and volunteering once a week at a nonprofit organization that helps the homeless with basic necessities such as food, cleanliness and laundry. 

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