Anna Bowers · April 9, 2019
Southern Virginia University students and faculty nominated psychology professor Jeff Batis, Spanish professor Arlene Fuentes, and music professor Kyle Nielsen as this semester’s “Professors of the Semester.”
Addressing the University community in forum on April 5, Batis, Fuentes and Nielsen each spoke about the reasons they love teaching at Southern Virginia.
Your Experiences Make Up Who You Are
Batis spoke first about the amazing capabilities of the brain and how our experiences make up who we are. He recounted his experiences as an undergraduate when he developed a testimony of Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon which helped shape him into who he is today.
Inviting students to be kind to themselves as they finish out the semester, Batis said everything he does as a professor is to build students up.
“I want you to know that I have a deep and abiding care about all of the students here and the faculty I get to work with,” he said. “I think we have some of the best faculty I have ever had the privilege of being associated with on this campus…All of the faculty here have a deep interest in your wellbeing, in your success while here and your success after you leave here on.”
Batis joined the Southern Virginia faculty in 2017 after teaching for twelve years at other universities. He has extensive graduate training in statistics and psychopharmacology and teaches courses including Behavioral Neuroscience, Statistics and Addictions.
Learning Another Language Expands Your World
Fuentes spoke about how learning a second language can open new doors and adjust our perspectives. Born in Puerto Rico, Fuentes said she always knew she wanted to be a teacher, but it wasn’t until after college that she realized she wanted to help students learn her native language for the rest of her life.
“There are three things that I love about my life,” she said. “ I love being Hispanic — I’m very proud to be Hispanic.  I love being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and  I love to teach. Add those three elements and you can see that I have the perfect job.”
This Fall marks 15 years that Fuentes has taught Spanish at Southern Virginia. She previously taught at her alma mater, Utah State University, as an adjunct instructor of Spanish and has helped with programs including Head Start and Upward Bound.
“I have loved teaching at Southern Virginia,” said Fuentes. “I love the kind of student that comes here and working with others who chose to be here for what it stands for.”
The Reciprocal Relationship between Mentors and Mentees
Nielsen spoke about the influence and impact his mentors had on him as an undergraduate at Southern Virginia and how his students impact him as a professor. As an undergraduate, Nielsen said he didn’t anticipate how involved Choir Director LaRae Carter and Theatre Director Robert Stoddard would be in his growth as a student and as a person.
“They cared a lot about me as an actor and as a singer. They wanted me to be the best musician and actor I could be and it’s what helped me find conducting,” said Nielsen. “I know that I’m a better human because of the care they had for me.”
Nielsen then named a few of his current students who have taught him lessons about selflessness, loyalty, commitment, desire for excellence and effective presence.
“You are all on a path,” he said to students. “You have strengths that you don’t give yourself enough credit for, you have weaknesses that you focus on too much and you have potential to achieve anything you want to achieve. I know that this education will give you what you need to do that because I am a product of it. Thanks to Southern Virginia I am where I am.”
Nielsen graduated Southern Virginia in 2012 and went on to receive his masters at East Carolina University and doctorate at the University of Miami Frost School of Music. He now conducts Bella Voce, Chamber Singers, Concert Chorale and Choral Union at the University and recently led a trip to New York City where the choirs performed in Carnegie Hall.