“Students Need Time to Be Confused": Roger House talks about giving back to Harper and its studentsRoger House, Harper College professor of chemistry, set his sights on teaching at Harper while still an undergraduate at Illinois State University. As a friend drove down Algonquin Road, Roger asked him about the campus. His friend extolled Harper’s strengths, and Roger knew that this was where he would one day like to teach. Upon completing his graduate study, Roger taught at three other community colleges before reaching his goal to teach at Harper.

He knew instantly that Harper is a place where he could make a difference to students. Roger was instantly impressed that teaching was more than a job to his Harper colleagues. He believes that “a lot of the things we do here enrich our classrooms…I wanted an environment where we could do these novel things that nobody else was doing…and I knew this was the place for me.”

Roger is no stranger to enriching classrooms. Along with Julie Ellefson-Kuehn, he facilitates undergraduate scientific research projects with the assistance of a 2018 Resource for Excellence Grant. Roger believes that bringing these experiences within students’ reach is empowering and potentially life-changing. He asserts, “Don’t underestimate the impact of this on the B student. Or on the C student…The A student is going to be interested in chemistry. This project can be used to turn people into chemists. And that’s what I hope we do here on some level.”

Ensuring students receive the opportunity to pursue their questions in the lab speaks to his beliefs about the nature of education. Roger invokes Eleanor Duckworth’s writings on pedagogy as he asserts: “Students need time to be confused… the thing I love about the research is that it’s nothing but a semester of confusion. Students have to figure things out. No one knows what the answer is…the whole point is that the student and I learn together…that’s what it’s all about because that’s how you grow as a scientist.”

Beyond his dedication to students in the classroom, Roger also finds other ways to give back. He is a long-time supporter of chemistry scholarships and a volunteer with the Harper College Employee Giving Campaign Committee. “I feel like it’s the least I can do to help other people pursue their education in chemistry and to reward what I consider exemplary behavior…there are still a lot of students who overcome a lot of obstacles, who put in a lot of time, who with just a little bit of encouragement or the right nudge, or some support they don’t get from anywhere else—we can’t imagine what difference that can make.”

Whether it is offering students new opportunities for exploration, supporting grants and scholarships that show others the path to a career in the sciences, or volunteering his time, Roger is a Harper College employee who gives back to our community. If you know of a Harper employee who gives back, please contact Kristyn Meyer with your suggestion for an upcoming InsideHarper spotlight.