Up Close: How I Got Here

Since 2012, Carolina Priester ’01, ’03M, ’12Ph.D. has been a full-time faculty member, teaching human anatomy and physiology, histology (tissue structure), and the senior seminar in the Department of Biology and Marine Biology. She is also a University College academic advisor. But before she taught Seahawks, she was one.

> I arrived at UNCW from Brazil as an international transfer student. That was August 1998 – the campus was much smaller than it is today, and so was Wilmington. I hadn’t visited the campus prior to moving here. I checked it out online, and it looked beautiful and there was a strong marine biology program. It sounded like the perfect place.

> When I came to UNCW, my main goal was to be a researcher or work with environmental education.

> I have been able to experience UNCW through the eyes of a student, staff member and faculty member. Throughout it all, I could see UNCW’s focus is the students. As a student, I didn’t know that, but I felt it. There were plenty of great professors, great classes and great work opportunities on campus. I felt it was the perfect place to be at the time. I still feel that way.

> I knew that I loved UNCW, and I knew I loved research, academia and teaching. I hadn’t planned where I wanted to go. Opportunities came along, and I just took them from undergrad to master’s degree. I applied to other master’s programs, but something opened up for me here in the microscopy lab to learn new techniques. I’m still here because of that master’s experience. Learning all those lab techniques is what landed me a job as faculty.

> A couple of months before defending my Ph.D. dissertation, I learned that the biology department had an open lecturer position to teach human anatomy and physiology. Throughout my master’s and Ph.D., I taught the labs for human anatomy, so I already knew the drill for the labs and the information for the course. I thought, “Hmmm…I could do that.”

> I want to make my students inquisitive. A lot of them have that desire to learn, and I want to foster that. I encourage them to think beyond what we are talking about in class. A lot of them do that on their own, and that’s really inspiring and fun.

> We purchased iPads and Osirix MD software with an ETEAL (Experiencing Transformative Education through Applied Learning) grant, awarded to UNCW faculty members carrying out applied learning projects. The technology allows students to view structures in 2D and 3D and introduces them to technology currently used in the medical field. I try to make every little piece of information relevant and show how all of those things interconnect. Why should you care about the digestive system if you’re only interested in physical therapy? I like to connect the dots for them.

> Receiving the Lecturer of the Year Award in 2019 felt special because it came from the place where I grew up academically, and now I’m on the other side. I was recognized for providing the same great experience for our current Seahawks that I had as a student.

- As told to Venita Jenkins

Posted January 9, 2020

Read more articles from the Fall/Winter 2019 issue of UNCW Magazine here!