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Darrin DeMoss: Teaching Up

Biology Professor Darrin DeMoss (Morehead State University, 1989) is motivated by a passion for his profession and his students. As a traditional lecturer, DeMoss routinely said he would never teach an online class, but like many who adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic, he turned to online education and persevered. 

Though DeMoss was an early adopter of technology in the classroom, moving from the chalkboard and overhead projector to PowerPoint several decades ago, he still had to adapt to distance learning in 2020 and 2021. “If I were a lecturer in the 1950s or 60s, I would have only had a piece of chalk in my hand,” DeMoss said. “But I’m not a lecturer from that period. I’m a lecturer who learned my teaching techniques when technology was becoming more common in the classroom.” 

The opportunity to improve communications and reach students who would not normally have access to certain classes is one of the positive impacts he sees from the pandemic. DeMoss expects institutions to carefully evaluate which courses will be delivered face-to-face, online or taught in a hybrid fashion, in part as a recruiting tool. “You can gain students from all over the country in a class taught in Kentucky because its being streamed,” DeMoss said. “I see changes in education coming because of changes forced on institutions of higher education during the past year. Some of them, I worry about. Being a physiologist who teaches advanced courses in human physiology and pathophysiology, I question how many professors are needed to teach advanced courses in a specific discipline in Kentucky or around the country as students can stream courses from any institution.”

DeMoss also worries about society losing the ability to communicate effectively, particularly the ability to write. “All you have to do is read text messages to see the developing problem. I read answers on exams and I see students losing their ability to communicate effectively in the written form,” DeMoss said. Another concern he has with online classes is students falling behind because they frequently put off class to binge watch later just prior to assignments being due. 

DeMoss comes from a family of educators and has a passion for education driven by the expectation and obligation to do his best every time he steps in the classroom. His father graduated from Morehead State University, then completed his master’s and left to complete his doctorate before spending his entire career as a teacher and administrator at Morehead State. DeMoss and his brother both graduated from Morehead State. DeMoss finished his master’s in biology at Morehead State and earned his doctorate in biomedical sciences from Marshall University’s School of Medicine. His brother’s education led to a military career in the Navy.

All three of his daughters have graduated from Morehead State, two with careers in teaching and his youngest is pursuing a career in nursing. 

As a kid, DeMoss grew up around the science building on campus. “The professors and students there were like extended family. My brother and I knew where everything was located as we ran from lab to lab; looking at mice, insects, snakes, fish etc., we just grew up around science,” DeMoss said. “It was really interesting to go on and get my doctorate and come back to teach with some of the same professors who had taught me as an undergraduate and helped to shape my career.” 

He imparts many of the lessons he learned on his own students. “I consider every lecture as a performance. I certainly do not consider myself an actor, but I think that is what I am doing in lots of ways. I am trying to convey information to students in a way that hopefully excites them, they can process the information, and they retain the material for later use. I am teaching future doctors, pharmacists, physical therapists, physician assistants and chiropractors. I believe it is my obligation to make sure that they are prepared for that next step in their educational experience, admission to professional school. Hopefully, the content I have exposed them to during my lectures enhances the likelihood they will be successful,” DeMoss said. 

In 2008 and 2015, the university asked DeMoss to lead the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) accreditation projects and he gave up research to devote time to that intensive necessary institutional work. On campus, his support of athletics and his ability to interact with students, made him a natural fit for the role of Morehead’s State’s faculty athletics representative (FAR), providing support and advocacy for student-athletes and to serve as the institution’s NCAA liaison. Though DeMoss did not pursue sports, his brother and several cousins were student-athletes at Morehead State, and he has long been connected to Morehead State’s athletics programs as a fan. 

DeMoss is a professor who wears institutional/team apparel to class to support his institution and Morehead State’s student-athletes. In the classroom, across campus, and both on and off on the playing field, he is there to support and encourage students in any environment. 

Volunteering to guide the men of Zeta Zeta, DeMoss stepped up when the chapter’s previous advisor, his friend and colleague Dr. Terry Irons, stepped down while battling cancer. “Terry and I had several heart-to-heart conversations late in his life concerning his thoughts that I should follow in his footsteps. He wanted to be sure his young men were taken care of in his absence,” DeMoss said. 

As a father of three girls, DeMoss felt he also had guidance to offer young men. “A lot of young men need a campus father figure, someone to talk with and problem solve while away from home. That does not mean that they do not have a father or that they do not have a good father, it merely means they do not have a father figure/mentor during their on-campus college career. 

“I tell every student that comes into my office during their freshman year, you have to find something other than your academic work to occupy some of your free time and adjust to campus life. Join a fraternity, join a sorority, participate in a political group, join one of the church groups or participate in intramurals. You have to be involved in something other than just your classwork, because the stress associated with their classwork ultimately could be their undoing.” 

Whether it is in the classroom, on the athletic field or at the Delt shelter, DeMoss is an educator whose influence guides students to do their best in pursuit of excellence. 


Feature Photo: DeMoss with his daughter Emilee

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