For Dr. Joffrey Suprina, Life Is the Teacher
When Dr. Joffrey Suprina was a sixth grader in Winter Haven, Florida, he learned a lesson that has served him well ever since.
His homeroom teacher walked into the classroom closet one morning and emerged moments later to ask her students a question: “So what’s different about me than when you saw me a minute ago?”
It was more than a lesson in being observant and present. It was a lesson in teaching—from a woman who also happened to be his mother.
“She had a way of engaging and connecting with students in a way that was very effective,” Suprina remembers. “Over the years, I’ve really come to appreciate how so much of what I learned from my mother—both in the classroom and in life—impacts how I teach and how I relate to people.”
Relating to people is at the core of what Suprina does. As Dean of the College of Counseling, Psychology and Social Sciences at Argosy University, he oversees all college programs, accreditations, curriculum, budgeting and academic endeavors across 19 campuses and online programs. He manages 27 department chairs and more than 100 faculty.
While his mother taught him “people skills”, Suprina’s father instilled a strong work ethic and taught him the power of trying new things. His father got him a job working at a citrus experiment station when he was just 12 years old. Suprina worked with an entomologist counting bugs under a microscope, with an inventor designing fruit picking machines, and with a chemist making wine. Says Suprina: “My father believed that trying different things was valuable because while what you’re doing may not be your dream job, you can cross it off your list—and it may help you identify what you want to be when you grow up.”
When Suprina graduated with his B.A. in Music from Rollins College in 1980, he never imagined his career path would lead to academia. Over the years, he worked as an audio-visual producer, a nationally certified massage therapist, a conflict resolution mediator, a choir director, a case manager, an arts programming director, a clinical mental health counselor, and even as a clown for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
“Even though I never set out to be a teacher or a dean, everything I’ve ever done has led me here and prepared me for this work, even if I didn’t realize it at the time,” says Suprina. “I think that when you follow your bliss and do what you love, the path forward presents itself.”
Suprina, who earned his Ph.D. in Counseling from George State University in 2006, is a big believer that the best path is not always the most direct.
“When you sail, you tack to the left, then you tack to the right,” Suprina says. “You’re not moving in a straight line, yet you’re still moving forward. That’s certainly been true in my life and career.”
Suprina, who is the founder and editor of The Practitioner Scholar: Journal of Counseling and Professional Psychology , continues to teach multiculturalism and counseling skills classes in addition to his duties as dean. He says he thrives on the energy of the classroom.
“I think teaching is both an art and a science,” Suprina says. “While it’s always a great idea to have an outline of where you’re going, I also think there’s value in being flexible and fluid. When you stick to the script, it’s easy to miss the miracles. When a class discussion veers off course, I trust that the conversation is going where it needs to go—and that something valuable will result. Being talked at is rather boring, so I’d much rather create a conversation that gets people thinking, asking questions, and sharing ideas. To me, it’s a much more stimulating way to teach—and to learn.”
Suprina says he especially enjoys the dynamic of interacting with adult learners.
“One of the benefits of working with adult students is that you can learn as much as you teach,” he explains “They often ask wonderful, thoughtful questions and bring a real world experience and perspective to the classroom that is very energizing. They also tend to be more pragmatic. They want to understand how whatever topic you’re addressing in class can benefit them in their career. They’re motivated and invested in the results.”
As Dean, Suprina says he has a clear focus on what he wants all Argosy students to receive.
“I want us to share techniques, approaches, and philosophies that our students can actually apply in the real world to make it a better place,” Suprina says. “What are the benefits of studying a particular topic? How is it going to help me be more effective in my career? How can I make a difference? I want students at Argosy to be able to ask—and answer—those questions.” ###