Paul Mueller, Adjunct Professor and #LourdesStrong Alumnus

Paul Mueller, MA Theology, 2011

After having been downsized and opening my own business, the time had come to try something I just wanted to do for fun – see if I could return to college, just because I wanted to. A quick internet search turned up a class that looked interesting at the nearby Lourdes College (now University). I signed up to audit the theology class on the Letters of Paul. My business travel kept me away from the first class, and I had trouble finding the room when I got there (that building no longer houses classes). As I cautiously opened the door, a friendly, smiling face nearby said, “Hi, you must be Paul. Come on in. I’m Shannon!” I took my place in the only available nearby seat, right next to Professor Shannon Schrein.

I had no goal in sight other than enjoying myself, but the only way I could discover whether I still had the ability to succeed at college was to submit the required assignments and take my medicine with whatever grade showed up. I got a perfect score on my first paper, and I knew I could do it. Before the end of that semester, Shannon had asked whether I had any interest in grad school, which shocked me, since that idea had never entered my mind – although it did intrigue me. Knowing the grades I’d received in my undergrad days at Cleveland State, I knew I would need to beef up my GPA if grad school were ever to be realized. From then on, I took all classes for grades, which, as an adult learner with a genuine interest in school, seemed so much easier than before – and a lot more fun!

As I considered my situation in the early terms of my return to school, I felt I would need to branch out and learn some history to give me some context to the theology I had taken. As I passed by a bulletin board in the school, a flyer hung there, advertising a course in Ancient History – exactly what I felt I needed. Besides, I would find out if I could succeed with a different professor, as well as check to see if I had simply been lucky in finding Shannon. Mary Kathryn Cooney possessed the same sort of smile that Shannon had as she introduced the class; they both loved what they taught. During the years at Cleveland State pursuing my bachelors in chemistry, and at Elgin Community College, where I took accounting to help my career in business, I never found any instructors nearly as friendly and helpful as those two. Mary Kathryn made me realize that Lourdes simply had a genuinely caring faculty. And they both didn’t mind taking in an old guy!

When I branched out to take a class from a third professor, Mark Christenson, my suspicions were again confirmed – Lourdes had a strong faculty, each one of whom showed concern for the student as an individual. I continued to take – and enjoy – classes that struck my fancy as the years went on.

Fast forward to 2009, when the Master of Arts program in Theology started. My plan succeeded when I was accepted into the first cohort for that degree. Although the program felt rigorous, it never overwhelmed me, since the professors, most of whom I had for the first time in grad school, all continued the now-familiar tradition of excellence in teaching at Lourdes. When the two and a half years ended, Sister Shannon Schrein (it had taken half of my first class with her to realize that she was a Sylvania Franciscan sister!) approached me and asked if I would teach as an adjunct – at the school I had learned to love and respect. The first semester teaching History of Christianity provided such a thrill that I knew that I wanted to teach for the rest of my life.

My success in the Masters program inspired me to go on, to see if I were doctor material. I applied to several schools, and I was accepted at Duquesne University, which turned out to have been the perfect choice for me. That opportunity showed me that my Lourdes education supported me well in the classes I shared at Duquesne with students who had earned their Masters degrees from places like Harvard, Boston University, Boston College, Fordham, Holy Cross, Fuller Seminary, and other schools. I have been working on my doctorate since then, continuing to teach as an adjunct at Lourdes. My love for teaching has not waned since I first stood before a class. Now you’ll have to excuse me – I have to get back to my work on my doctoral studies.

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