Associate Professor and
Undergraduate Program Officer in Animal Sciences
College of Agriculture
Dale Coleman first experienced Camp War Eagle (CWE) in 1997 when he was selected as one of eight Faculty Honorees for that summer's edition of Auburn University's incoming-freshman orientation program, and he loved every minute of it. When CWE leaders invited the Department of Animal Sciences associate professor back the following summer to serve as Head Faculty Honoree, he jumped at the opportunity, and did the same in '99 when asked to serve as faculty adviser for the program. Fast-forward to the present. When the last group of 2011 Camp War Eagle participants heads home July 15, Coleman - who has been a faculty member in Auburn's College of Agriculture since 1984 and is known on Ag Hill and in CWE as simply Dr. C. - will have wrapped up his record-setting 15th straight year of putting his heart and soul into making CWE a success.
1. What's your official role in Camp War Eagle?
I'm not sure that I really have an official role anymore. I mainly just answer to, "Can you help us with this?" Because of my lengthy background with the program, I can fill in a lot of places when Mark Armstrong or his staff need help on a moment's notice - things like speaking to parents about expectations faculty have for their students in the classroom or giving advice to incoming freshmen on how to "survive" college or start building their college resumé. And I continue to offer my opinions regarding program events from the perspective of a classroom instructor and a faculty adviser. If nothing else, I enjoy just being around the counselors to let them know what a great job they are doing and cheering them on. They work hard and provide a tremendous service to Auburn and our incoming freshmen, and I'm their biggest fan.
2. OK, be honest. As summer approaches each year, don't you ever find yourself saying, "Oh no! It can't be Camp War Eagle time again"?
Not at all. I love every minute of it. You know, people say you only get one chance to make a first impression, but every session of camp is a new opportunity to make a first impression of Auburn on a whole new group of incoming freshmen and their parents. I think that's an exciting challenge that never grows old. One of the things I like to remind the counselors of before each session is that, no matter how old or repetitive this might have become for them, this is the only Camp War Eagle session these freshmen will ever have, and each and every incoming freshman deserves the very best orientation experience Auburn can give them.
3. Why are you so "all about the students," be they incoming freshmen at Camp War Eagle or seniors in your animal sciences department?
For one thing, students are why those of us who teach are here. But when I was a student in college, I was blessed with some truly amazing and inspirational instructors and advisers who made it clear that they cared about me and were dedicated to helping me reach my career goals. Their support, motivation and faith in me made all the difference, and now I'm in a position to give back - or pay forward, however you want to look at it. A lot of what others did to help me was simply giving their time to explain how things worked and how to make things happen. Every student accepted to Auburn has the potential to be successful at Auburn, but some may need a little extra help making the transition, learning how the system works, becoming self-reliant and making smart, independent decisions, and I want them to know that I'm here for them.
Of course, it's always fun to watch the naturally talented, 4.0 GPA students excel and win all the awards and recognitions they deserve when they graduate; in large part, we (faculty) just have to stay out of their way, and they'll be fine. But I'm an even bigger cheerleader for the students who struggle but who hang in there, work hard, push themselves to grow beyond what even they think they can do and truly earn their degree.
4. In the animal sciences department, you are the undergraduate teaching and advising coordinator, and you've won several awards in both areas in recent years. What are you the most proud of?
I've been blessed recently with a number of recognitions for teaching and advising, and I'm honored and humbled by those. But the real rewards are the random, unsolicited thank-you's from the students I've helped along the way. Not long ago, a former student who was in Auburn for a conference came by and thanked me for helping him in a class he took with me more than a decade ago. He told me that he appreciated the challenging way in which I taught the course and that he still uses the information from the class on a daily basis in his current job. It's feedback like that, reminding you that what you do every day really does make a difference, that gives teachers that "warm, fuzzy" feeling inside and puts a smile on our face every time we walk into the classroom.
5. But back to professional recognitions, isn't your wife, Elaine, an award-winning teacher in the College of Veterinary Medicine?
Elaine has won several teaching awards at the vet school, and students who have had both of us as instructors say our actual teaching methods are very similar. But more importantly, they appreciate that we both care about them and are dedicated to helping them prepare for their futures. Elaine is one of two faculty members entrusted each year to serve as faculty advisers for the incoming first year class at the vet school, and in that role, she helps the new professional-school students learn how things work in their system and how to get off to a good start. So we have parallel roles in many ways, in both teaching and advising, and we both love what we do.
To read more about the Camp War Eagle program, go to this link.