James McGowan: The Power of Positive Teaching

Faculty, Administration/Staff, News, Profile

James McGowan


December 9, 2016

James McGowan: The Power of Positive Teaching

by Gary Sullivan

James McGowan appreciates the challenge of balancing academic study with work and other life obligations. “I have real empathy for my students,” he said. “I’ve been teaching adults my whole career, for almost 30 years.”

His compassion for the working student comes from experience. Now a professor of psychology and executive director of off-campus administration for Adelphi University, McGowan worked full time supervising ground service operations at John F. Kennedy International Airport’s British Airways terminal while pursuing his own master’s degrees in psychology and school psychology.

“I’m a demanding teacher and I expect my students to do a lot of work and learn a lot in each of my classes,” McGowan said, “but I try to be flexible to accommodate people’s real-world situations. They often have work and family obligations in addition to their course loads, and I have to give them credit for being motivated and making time to come in to class.” 

His teaching philosophy involves encouraging students and giving them opportunities to do their best work.

Adult students are unique—there is a reason why they’re in school, and they’re often highly motivated,” he said. “But they might be rusty if they’ve been out of school for a while. So I tell them, ‘Don’t be satisfied with a C or even a B; think about how you can get an A.’ Maybe that means getting a tutor or some help writing, or maybe it’s a matter of self-confidence.”

McGowan credits Adelphi University with developing an environment where nontraditional students can thrive, with evening courses and online options making it easier to work school into their schedules. And he looks forward to expanding those opportunities in the coming years.

“In Fall 2017, we’ll be significantly expanding what we offer at the University’s Manhattan Center, with several exciting new initiatives,” he said. “These include a program for international students and a global M.B.A. program with a truly international approach to business.”

He spoke excitedly about the launch of the NYC Scholars Program, which will offer housing in Brooklyn and Manhattan and provide students with a fully immersive educational experience. “If you’re studying art, that might mean taking advantage of resources at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; if you’re getting a business degree, you’ll be going down to Wall Street.” Adelphi will begin to take applications for the program in Spring 2017 and courses will begin in Spring 2018.

“We’ve been listening to students and doing market research as we put together a long-term plan to more effectively respond to our community’s needs,” he said. “Our next big goal is to apply for branch campus status for the Manhattan Center, so that students can complete their degrees there without having to take some of their course work at the Garden City campus. It will mean making considerably more services available in Manhattan, which means finding more space for classrooms and other resources.

“Adelphi University is a hidden gem, a fantastic operation that is very much in tune with the wants and needs of adult students,” he added. “But just as I encourage and expect my students to think about how they can get the most out of their education—not settling for anything less than an A—I expect us at the University to work and plan just as hard. When we provide our community with what it needs to succeed, it’s a win-win for everyone.”

About Adelphi: A modern metropolitan university with a personalized approach to higher learning.

Adelphi University, New York, is a highly awarded, nationally ranked, powerfully connected doctoral research university dedicated to transforming students’ lives through small classes with world-class faculty, hands-on learning and innovative ways to support academic and career success. Adelphi offers exceptional liberal arts and sciences programs and professional training, with particular strength in our Core Four—Arts and Humanities, STEM and Social Sciences, the Business and Education Professions, and Health and Wellness.

Recognized as a Best College by U.S. News & World Report, Adelphi is Long Island’s oldest private coeducational university. It serves more than 8,100 students at its beautiful main campus in Garden City, New York—just 23 miles from New York City’s cultural and internship opportunities—and at dynamic learning hubs in Manhattan, the Hudson Valley and Suffolk County, as well as online.

More than 115,000 Adelphi graduates have gained the skills to thrive professionally as active, engaged citizens, making their mark on the University, their communities and the world.


For further information, please contact:

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