Q. Who is Nancy Brown? Describe yourself in 10 words or less.
Energetic, list-making, goal-setting, coffee-swilling, shoe-loving scientist.
But in the morning I probably identify more as a coffee drinker than a scientist.
Q. Describe your childhood. Were you running science experiments at a young age?
I always loved science but it was in high school that I found I had a real aptitude for it. I also loved math. I actually loved learning everything, except English, although I don’t mind doing scientific writing now.
Q. Where has your education taken you?
I have been going to school forever! I grew up in Regina and started my first two years of post-secondary at the University of Regina. I finished a bachelor of science at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, then went to the University of Alberta and did my PhD in immunology. After that, I went to the University of Toronto for four years of post-doctoral training. Most recently, I did a MBA with Royal Roads University. So I really love school. When I began my MBA and had to introduce myself, I said I started school in kindergarten and pretty much never left.
Q. How did you come to teach at MHC?
I love this story. I was at a dinner party in Toronto, just chatting over drinks about what I wanted to be when I grew up, and what my goals were. I was describing my ideal job when someone said they saw an ad in the Globe & Mail that matched my description. When I read the ad about Medicine Hat College I knew it was a good fit for me. I applied and here I am!
Q. What do you love most about teaching? What keeps you coming back to MHC after 15 years?
There are two things I love most about the teaching world.
One is learning with the students. They ask questions that I have never thought of and sometimes don’t know the answers to. I love being able to find the answer and share that with them. Just the other day, I got a fabulous question from a student in my cell biology class and my immunology class - he connected the two classes together in a way that I hadn’t even considered.
The second thing I love is watching students grow. I only teach second year science students now and their growth in one year is incredible. When they start their second year, they are shy and a little intimidated but by the end of it they are speaking very confidently about science. It’s just so satisfying.
Q. Past UT science students have mentioned being extremely well-prepared for university while at the same time having nightmares because of classes you’ve taught. What can students expect in your classroom?
Hearing students say they were well-prepared for university is the single best compliment I can receive. Especially in a university transfer program. That is what we are here for, to prepare them. But there is a lot to learn. University transfer science has content heavy courses and I expect students to not only learn the content but to make connections. I do challenge them, for sure.
The nightmares probably come from the fruit fly project in my genetics course. Students are given an unknown fruit fly and have to determine the genetic makeup of that fly over the course of a semester. They work independently, set up crosses, and analyze the data. It’s a demonstration of knowledge and time management skills. When I think about all the buzz around experiential learning, this is a great example. But it’s also a huge challenge, so I’m guessing if there are nightmares this is probably where they are coming from.
Q. Share some of the highlights of your career at MHC. What has been your proudest moment?
When we see our students succeed. Success means they transfer smoothly, get in to their program of choice and establish careers in their chosen field. When I go to my dentist’s office and see two of my former students working at the clinic it just makes me feel good.
Q. Who or what has been your greatest influence or inspiration, professionally and/or personally?
There is not one single person that I look to for inspiration. I would say I have a whole circle of people and take one or two things from each person. There will be somebody that I admire for their courage or their tenacity, another for their leadership qualities. My inspiration and influence comes from lots of different sources. Family, for sure. Colleagues are huge, and friends, which are often the same people for me.
Q. What do you do when you’re not here?
In my free time, I’m usually walking my dogs with my husband. I just finished course work for my MBA in January so I’m taking a little breather, walking a lot more.
Q. Let’s talk shoes. Where do you shop?
I just did some damage at Gravity Pope in Calgary. I love Fluevogs and Campers. Some of my Fluevogs are 10 years old and still look great.
Q. What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I’m a pretty open book so there aren’t any secrets. But I really don’t care for water. Water in something – coffee, tea, wine, beer – is fine. But just sitting down to a glass of water is not appealing to me.
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