Professor Robert Young, humanities department chair at Carroll Community College, is known for his “eccentric” sense of style and upbeat personality. He’s quite a popular professor amongst his students, and even students who haven’t taken any of his classes already know who he is through the grape vine and social media.
“A student came by one day and told me that I was famous on Facebook,” says Young with a slight chuckle in his voice. “I was pretty surprised, because I don’t do Facebook, or Twitter or any of those things. The student was pretty excited about it, so I guess it’s a good thing.”
When asked about his fashion sense, Young simply smiled and laughed, knowing that his students think his clothing choices must seem outlandish.
“It’s really just me,” says Young. “Once in a while, I’ll see a post on RateMyProfessor saying how I’ll dress oddly in order to get the attention of the students. One post I saw said, ‘Most of the time, you just go to class to see what he’s wearing that day.’ I mean, if it gets you to come to class, then that’s great. But it really is just me being me.”
Young knows that not only does he pose as a teacher, he’s also an inspiration. He wants his students to feel comfortable and at ease in his classroom, which is one of the reasons why he incorporates his own sense of style in his outfits.
“I think that being comfortable with who you are and how you dress is important to the young crowd that I teach. If they can see that I can be sort of a clown once in a while then they can feel like it’s okay for them to show who they really are too.”
Young takes his job as a history professor seriously but knows how to keep things light-hearted, easy-going, and stressfree inside the classroom. He wants his students to succeed at the top of their potential, and Young understands that being a good professor academically and personally is vital to an enjoyable class experience.
“I try to be a really good professor that students are excited to see,” says Young. “It really sucks when you take a class and end up having a horrible professor; it kind of ruins things for you. You end up getting this negative image of the class. And if you get a bad professor for any subject, it just turns you off and you think, ‘Well I never want to take this subject again.’ If you end up getting one klunker, it can cause the student to completely change their career path.”
Many students often wonder where they’ll end up in life and what they’ll be doing. For Young, becoming a professor was not in his line of sight. Originally planning on majoring in business and exploring the field, Young found himself taking an unlikely turn in life when he was thrown headfirst into something he knew very little about.
“I didn’t plan on being a teacher,” says Young. “When I was studying at Syracuse University, I applied for a graduate assistanceship where you get free tuition, benefits, and a salary in exchange for helping professors do their research, grading papers, etc. When I started my graduate assistanceship, I thought I would only be helping professors with their busy-work. This was not the case. I was actually thrown into a classroom full of students to teach them all on my own. I was furious. This was not what I wanted to do. But after a while, I came to realize that I liked teaching and that I was pretty good at it. I went to College Park to study history, and here I am teaching it today.”
Youngs view on students in regards to figuring out what career path to take in life is quite simple: pursue what you want. Not what your parents, advisors, or society wants.
“There is so much pressure on students when it comes to what they want to do in life and what they think they should do in life,” says Young. “When I first started college, I was a business major but I was always interested in theatre. I looked at all the actors and actresses, and I would’ve loved doing something like that. But I couldn’t. I wasn’t ‘supposed’ to do that. It wasn’t what was expected of me from my parents. They expected me to get a business degree and make a lot of money working with numbers. I want students to really pursue what they want to do. If you really want to do something, and are determined enough, eventually you’ll find someone to pay you for it.”
Always keeping a positive frame-of-mind, Young finds ways to keep the balance of stress, work, and responsibilities in harmony with his relaxing down-time. With a passion for the culinary arts, Young finds bliss in creating masterpieces on his dinner plate.
“If I have a free afternoon,” says Young, “I’m in the kitchen. My own mother has even asked for my pie crust recipe. My reasoning is, I’m worth a good meal. So why not cook for myself?”
After Young finishes enjoying his hard work in the kitchen, he unwinds with the healing sound of music. “I play guitar and piano, so the front room of my house is ‘The Music Room.’ I love being able to sit down for an hour or so at the end of the day to play music.”
In addition to his passion for cooking and his attachment to music, Young is also a dog-lover. His 14-year-old Golden Retriever, Lady Bird, holds an extremely special place in Young’s heart. He named her after Mrs. Lyndon Johnson, the wife of our country’s 36th president.
“I guess only a history teacher would do that! She’s my best buddy and my ‘first lady!'” Young exclaimed.
They spend time together by going to the park and taking an occasional walk.
“I love my dog,” says Young. “She’s very very spoiled. She’s a cancer survivor; she was diagnosed with cancer when she was 6 and the veterinarian gave her 6 months to live, and here she is now, almost 8 years later. She’s my girl. I could have the worst day ever but taking one look at her just makes everything melt away.”
When asked if he wanted to give one last piece of advice to students, Young sat a little straighter in his chair and had the spark of sincerity in his eyes: “Never waste a day away,” says Young. “Every day is precious. My dad always told me, ‘Make sure that whatever you do in life, you love it. Because you’re going to be doing it for a very long time.'”
Since starting here at Carroll in January of 1996, Young has made a positive impression on the many different types of people he has interacted with over the years. Whether it’s his teaching style or his extraordinary persona, Young has captured the hearts and minds of many here at Carroll.