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Alumna returns to teach physics

Kacey Meaker

Kacey Meaker

When she was a senior at Randolph, Kacey Meaker ’08 jokingly told a friend that one day she would return here to teach. It took eight years, but her prediction came true.

Meaker is serving this year as a visiting professor in physics. Meaker just recently earned her Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, and is happy to return “home.”

“I loved my four years here, so I’m really happy to be back,” she said. “I have a lot of teaching experience, but this is my first job as a full-time college professor, so it’s really nice to be in an environment where I’m supported and where I can learn from lots of other really experienced professors.”

Though she is adjusting to a full-time teaching career and getting to know her students, Meaker is already very familiar with the campus. She said that an orientation session for new faculty she attended about the College’s Honor Code and self-scheduled exams only served as a refresher course, and reminded her about some of the things she loved most about her undergraduate experience.

One thing that has changed, however, is how much Randolph’s physics program has grown. “There are so many more physics majors than there were when I was here,” she said. “They’re very motivated, and there are some who come to my office at 8:30 in the morning just to ask questions.”

In the classroom, Meaker strives to share her love for physics with students and encourage them to think critically. She also shows them how various concepts in physics are a part of everyday life.

“Understanding relativity is necessary for your GPS to work correctly,” she said. “And without quantum mechanics, none of your computers will work and you can’t build one. People know physics is important, but they don’t think about how it applies to their life on a day-to-day basis.”

Other than reading, volunteer work is one of Meaker’s favorite hobbies. While at Berkeley, she taught classes at San Quentin State Prison, helping inmates earn their associate’s degrees. In the Lynchburg area, she travels to Brook Hill Farm, a horse rescue and therapeutic riding center in Forest, twice a week, where she rides the horses and works with the at-risk youth who attend programs. She also arrived at Randolph early this fall to help with the SUPER program, and taught high school students about fluid dynamics at a Science Saturdays session.

Meaker said she has received overwhelming support from other faculty, staff, and students since she has returned, and is grateful to return to a small college community—especially one that is so special to her.

“Everything I learned here made me love it even more, and that carried me through grad school,” she said. “And even though I’m only here for a year, there’s a sense that every person is valuable and important. As much as that applies to the students, I feel like that applies to me as well.”

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