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Maureen Murphy-Smolka

Maureen Murphy-Smolka


I believe that we all have a purpose in life and that purpose is found through our individual and unique gifts. I also believe we all have a responsibility to be of service to one another. Those beliefs led me to a career in education and ultimately to SCCC.

During my undergraduate work at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, I developed my gift for teaching by achieving a Bachelor of Science degree in education. I acted on my belief in service by volunteering in tutoring and library programs for elementary children in Newark, New Jersey. My love of reading and my interest in providing the best reading instruction to a diverse population of students drove me to pursue a Master of Arts degree as a reading specialist from Montclair University in Montclair, New Jersey.

My professional life began as an elementary teacher and then moved to working as a reading specialist at the elementary, middle school and secondary level. During my tenure in the public school system, I received the Governor’s Teacher of the Year Award in 1986.

In 1987, I chose to work at SCCC because of my belief in community colleges. Community colleges are also called democracy’s colleges because they offer opportunities to all people regardless of their socio-economic status and prior educational experiences. These educational opportunities enhance our individual freedom and our nation’s freedom. I chose to stay at SCCC because they honor their mission statement to “create learning opportunities for self-improvement and transformation throughout life by providing accessible and affordable quality education and community enrichment in a climate of caring and respect.”

A key program at community colleges is their developmental studies program. Developmental studies were initiated because students entering community colleges with gaps in their educational background were not being successful. Students need the requisite academic tools to achieve success. The developmental studies programs provide students with those tools. Throughout my tenure at SCCC, I have had the privilege of seeing students successfully navigate college as a result of their developmental studies experiences. I believe in developmental studies and am proud to be a member of the English department teaching Critical Reading and Thinking, Children’s Literature and Capstone for Liberal Arts.

SCCC has provided me with many personal and professional opportunities. I have received the Nisod Excellence in Teaching Award in 2001. My commitment to service has been exemplified in the Reading Buddies Program that I developed and coordinated for ten years at SCCC. This program was awarded the Silver Medallion of Achievement for Public/Community Relations Projects in 1998. Due to my efforts with this program and my use of the program as a Service Learning Project with my Critical Reading and Thinking and Children’s Literature students, I was awarded the Outstanding Academic Citizenship award for Exemplary Commitment and Leadership with Campus and Community Constituencies from the Academic Affairs and SCCC Foundation in 2010. My interest in serving the community at large was honored in 2009 through the Project Self-Sufficiency Mosaic Award in recognition of extraordinary support and ongoing contributions to and compassion for Sussex County’s families.

One of my personal philosophies comes from one of Socrates’ tenets that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Learning about oneself and the world at large is a lifelong pursuit. The subject areas that I teach provide me with constant new avenues of teaching and learning. My students continually teach me about life and myself. My reflective spiritual life helps me understand myself and others better. My interests in exercise, yoga, reading and traveling enable me to relax and have fun while learning.

My career has and continues to bring me much personal and professional fulfillment. I believe that is because I have been able to follow the advice that Polonius gave to his son Laertes in Hamlet “to thy own self be true.” By acting on my belief in each individual’s purpose in life and the commitment to service, I have been able to follow a life path that is true for me thus giving me much happiness.