Sociology professor encourages students

Michelle Castano

Staff Writer

“If you follow your passion, your dreams will come true,” stated Sociology professor Dr. Robert Gallagher. Hailing from Ohio, Dr. Gallagher, once an accounting major, had an inspiring professor during his junior year of college at Cleveland State University that made him change his major to Sociology. 

Broward College students have the pleasure in having not only an exquisite proctor, but someone who really cares about the students and not just sees them as a number; in his office, he makes students feel welcome and has a “safe zone sticker” in which anyone could talk to him about any issues they are dealing with. “Anyone could come in and talk to me since I did social work and counseling for many years; students succeed when they feel comfortable in their learning environment,” said Gallagher.

Dr. Gallagher has been with Broward College for approximately 8 years, since August 2011 and has made a deep impact not only within BC but throughout his community as well. Not only was Gallagher nominated by students for “Professor of the Year” and won the recognition, but in 2018, he received the endowed teaching chair. 

According to BC, the endowed teaching chair program awards the recipients a stipend of $10,000 over one year to provide for the professor’s development and projects to improve classroom excellence and efficiency. Dr. Gallagher created a Human Services library for students from a portion of his teaching endowed award. 

Having worked in the social work field for 15 years, Gallagher realized that teaching was his passion. Back in Cleveland, he was teaching as an adjunct professor at Cuyahoga Community College and realized that he wanted to teach full-time. “I really enjoyed the academia, the teaching aspect of it. I love everything that the students bring to class and talk about [all of their experiences]. As a sociologist, one of the things that you do is that you learn about people’s experiences; through quantitative statistics, or through hearing stories. I am more of a story teller; I like to hear people’s stories. I love learning about different cultures, different communities, different practices. Learning is a two-way street — I learn from students and students learn from me; that is kind of what life is about… Interacting from each other and growing,” said Gallagher.

At Broward College, most students are first-generation students, meaning that they are the first in their family to ever attend college and about 70 percent are on financial aid. Being a first-generation student himself and the “black sheep” of the family,

Dr. Gallagher can relate. From his humble beginnings and rough childhood in Barnesville, Ohio (2 hours away from Cleveland), Gallagher was always told that the way out of poverty was through a proper college education. Right after high school, he served our country in the Army for 8 years and was able to cover college funds through his G.I. Bill, FAFSA and his grandparent’s financial support throughout his early college years. “Growing up the way I grew up, pushed me to get ahead,” said Gallagher. 

The courses in which Dr. Gallagher teaches include Introduction to Sociology, Social Problems, Sociology of Human Sexuality, and a new course, Introduction to Human Services.

BC is now offering a two-year Associate of Science degree in Human Services (social work). Dr. Gallagher will assist students with internships and placement opportunities. Having a doctorate in the Human Services field, Gallagher will help students figure out what kind of jobs they are interested in within the field, whether it be focusing on family violence (child abuse and neglect), domestic violence, gerontological services, or substance abuse to name a few.

Gallagher is involved in a myriad of organizations, on and off campus including the South Campus GSA and Latinos Salud among others. “When I got hired at BC about 8 years ago, I realized there really wasn’t a GSA on this campus, so I talked to a couple of students, they got involved and we created our first ever GSA. We cover events like art of drag (what it is to gender bend), a human trafficking seminar, and the coming out process (what is it like to come out of the closet). Many LGBT students are known to suffer from depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts [when they are fearful of coming out to friends and family],” said Gallagher. 

Through teaching, mentoring and counseling, Dr. Gallagher found his passion and stated that he wanted to eventually retire from teaching in the long run (30 more years). “No matter what you do in life, do what makes you happy because 1/3 of your life is sleeping, 1/3 is working and 1/3 is doing whatever you want. Why not be somewhere and do something in your career that makes you happy? Follow your passion, why waste a third of your life on doing something you hate,?” he said. 

castm46@mail.broward.edu

Professor Dr. Robert Gallagher recently won Professor of the Year for 2018.

Photo: Jovan Subrath/The Observer