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Setting the Scenario for Soaring Students: CR Junkins Receives George Jenkins Endowed Teaching Chair Award for 2015

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

This is the first in a series of two Endowed Teaching Chair 2015 Stories.

With an infectious enthusiasm and warmth, Professor CR Junkins helps his students shine, leading them on a joyous adventure of learning and discovery. That inspirational gift has earned him the George Jenkins Endowed Teaching Chair Award for 2015.

CR Junkins Photo rev 3

CR Junkins believes deeply in paying it forward, never forgetting the help and encouragement he got from educators and mentors from his own youth in Waynesboro, GA.

“The work of a few dedicated individuals beautifully altered the course of my life,” Junkins said. “They provided their students an education above and beyond the core requirements. They offered encouragement and mentorship. They saved me,” he said, adding that they motivated him to seek a college education, and to use that education to help others.  “I had won the lottery, and it was time to pay back my debt.”

And that is exactly what this dedicated professor of English at Polk State College does, inside and outside the classroom.

Junkins calls Polk County “a vibrant, energetic place filled with possibilities.” He added: “There are a number of students in this county who needed for someone, anyone, to just give them a chance and stretch out a hand. As I started teaching here, I discovered students with brilliant minds and dreams; they simply needed a little extra attention.”

It is this caring manner that drives Junkins to serve Polk State and, by extension, our community. His positive, approachable attitude, plus his innovative and dynamic teaching, creates a learning environment that is exciting, motivating, and inclusive to all. He brings his Composition, Introduction to Literature, Science-Fiction and Fantasy Literature, and other courses vividly to life, striving to unleash the potential of every student.

As he constantly encourages his students to push themselves and take on new challenges, Junkins also pushes himself, constantly developing and implementing new courses and programs. He loves the way Polk State encourages him to do just that. “Polk State is blessed with a culture that not only invites, but inspires engagement,” he said.

Some examples include emphasizing environmental writing in the Honors program’s ENC 1101 course so that students could experience the connection of writing and science; developing a LIT 2930 course; and resurrecting a course that had once been popular, LIT 1201: Science Fiction Literature.

Another thing Junkins loves most about Polk State is its small, personal size. “I have found the greatest joy, and my greatest successes, in collaborating with professors from other disciplines,” he said. A prime example of this is a joint seminar that he developed with Professor Natalie Whitcomb, focusing on how Florida’s ecosystem affects texts written by and for Floridians and culminating in a trip to the Everglades.

Junkins has been equally dedicated to serving the College beyond the classroom. Most recently, in January 2016, he took on the position of Interim Associate Dean of Academic Affairs for the Winter Haven Campus. In 2013, he was elected by his department to serve on the Faculty Senate, and during his first year, he was elected to serve as Secretary.

He has been passionate about philanthropic endeavors on campus, including assisting My Brother’s Keeper, the service the college provides for its homeless students, and the Groundlings Scholarship, an annual donation to Polk State College to fund an actor for a full semester of classes. He has also spearheaded and served as advisor for two student clubs, the Polk State Traditional Gaming Club, one of the largest and most active in the College, and Free to Be Me for LGBT students.

CR Junkins earned his degrees in philosophy and English in 1990, from Mercer University, with honors in creative writing. He holds a Master of Arts in English Literature from the University of South Florida, where he also earned a graduate certificate in creative writing. Junkins joined Polk State in 2008 as an adjunct professor and was hired full time as a professor of English in 2011.

His plans for using the funds from the Endowed Teaching Chair Award include purchasing interview equipment for his students, particularly for two upcoming projects. One is an interdisciplinary project with Professor David Woods to build a combined course, including a trip to Ireland to meet and interview participants in the Irish peace process.  The second project is having his students create a book documenting changes to Polk County due to modernization, such as the disappearance of orange groves, that have impacted individual lives.

Polk State College is truly fortunate to have a gifted educator like Junkins, who cares so much about helping students, and our community, soar on the wings of enlightenment.

“For a few brief semesters, I give the dreamers in my classes the skills they need to make their goals happen,” he said. “I could live anywhere I choose, because of the education I received. But there aren’t enough sunny afternoons in European cafes that can compare to the joy I feel in watching my students succeed.”