Selected Student Course Evaluations

This is the 1st time I’ve ever truly learned in class instead of memorizing bits of information to get by and then forgetting it all. The way you started with the big concepts and then narrowed down into the more complex specific details helped my brain to grasp the full picture. I also liked the constant repetition throughout your lectures that solidified the details in my brain as we moved on. Speaking of repetition, I think that one of the most beneficial aspects of your teaching style is the review we would do in the beginning of class. This was a good start to class because it engaged my brain about details that we had already talked about and was a good opportunity to ask questions. The review was ultimately a good way to build a bridge to the next lecture. Lastly all the memes and animations were GOLDEN. I really appreciated how many hours you put into making your powerpoints. They were easy to follow along and also super funny and visually appealing for all of us visual learners. It truly is very apparent how much you care about your students and their individual successes (not only short term but long term too). As a student, that has such an impact on how we approach your class and your passion for the subject easily made me more engaged in what you were teaching

Dr. Payne incorporates all the learning styles into his teachings. His powerpoints are concise but detailed, his drawings are accurate but simple, and his explanations are clear. I never find myself nodding off during lab because Dr. Payne is very engaging. He speaks with a loud, clear voice and always makes sure we understand what he’s saying. He repeats things over and over again until we understand what is going on. Dr. Payne will individually ask each of his students how they are doing or feeling about the class/quiz/exam etc. and it makes me feel very seen. Dr. Payne also promotes learning, not just memorizing. He gives the etymology of most of the words so that we can understand why things are named the way they are named and it helps us remember the words better.

THANK YOU, Dr. Payne!! You are one of the best teachers I have ever had, because of everything I have listed above. You are very good at catering to all the learning styles, you are engaging, passionate–you obviously are very interested in what you teach–, and you always tie the lectures back to God and how wonderful a creator He is. I appreciated especially how you tied the faith into the lecture on fertilization and genetic diversity. I now have a love for human anatomy because of you, and I have grown so much as a student and as a person through taking this class (see vocations paper!). You have been pivotal to my college education. Thank you for all the dedication you put into making this class what it is, and thank you for your humor, energy, and excitement. It is contagious! You’re going to continue to do great things, this I know!

He was very patient, and eager to help us learn and understand. He gives multiple examples of how to remember parts of the body, and if you were to tell him they don’t work, he’d provide a brand new example. I also appreciate how he didn’t allow himself to become a crutch either. He would explain parts of the lab manual less and less at the beginning of class in the hopes that we were beginning to look at the material independently, but I also never felt afraid to ask for help either.

I have met with Dr. Payne outside of class and found his explanation of the material and study tips very helpful! He is always respectful of hearing my opinion or feedback on suggestions for the course. I also liked how he took the time to explain his teaching approach to me and connected the goal of learning to a far greater purpose in life beyond just passing his course.

Dr. Payne challenges me to think at a large scale level where many factors interact with one another. As a biology major, most of my classes have clear cut black & white answers, but this class has many potential correct answers based on the way an individual approaches the issue at hand. There are fundamental concepts that must be memorized and understood but so many of them interact that there are many ways to combine those interactions into an educated answer that reflects the material and question. I find it beneficial since most things in life and as a professional require you to factor in many different aspects to solve a problem. Most work tasks and issues may also have many ways to go about the problem and being able to analyze and combine solutions could be beneficial. I also want to be a physician so understanding the big picture and complexity is key.

Dr. Payne’s teaching style promotes learning, not memorizing. Dr. Payne stresses the importance of actually understanding concepts and definitions instead of just memorizing them word for word so that we can actually apply them. He always gives us the etymology of words so that learning them becomes natural and not something we have to spend hours studying. When it came to learning the parts of the brain, Dr. Payne explained the meanings of each term by their etymology so that we could more easily remember their structure and function. I believe his way of teaching is very successful in promoting learning because he encourages students to look at things in more of the big picture and to work smarter not harder in understanding all of the terms and processes.

Selected Peer Evaluations

The level of active engagement in discussion by such a wide swath of students in the classroom was well above the average in comparison to other classes I have seen at [multiple institutions].

Dr. Payne’s courses in the last year show an excellent implementation of contemporary science pedagogy and caring, Catholic student formation.

Teaching Philosophy

The defining goals of my teaching philosophy are:

  • Highlight critical thinking + concepts-focused / “big picture” understanding
  • Develop quantitative, writing, and communication skills
  • Emphasize need to transfer these abilities to new experiences
  • Provide enthusiastic instruction and tangible experiences to foster skill development
  • Ultimately, linking these efforts and skills back to student’s personal identity/vocation to promote sense of value and engagement.
I demonstrate utmost enthusiasm for the material and maintain personable interactions with students to provide them with contextualized learning examples and mentorship. I provide them instruction and mentorship regarding learning techniques and ample opportunities for active learning so as to promote engagement.

  • As a result, students leave my class with an understanding and excited curiosity of course concepts with an appreciation for application of course material to their own lives and a suite of learned skills to prepare them for successful STEM careers.

Critical Thinking & Skill Development:

  • Teaching is a means to advance students’ skillsets, so I provide students experiences to develop transferable skills.
  • Central to my teaching approach is developing and practicing the application of critical thinking. Critical thinking involves assimilating new observations with prior knowledge in order to diagnose problems and identify solutions.
    • Critical thinking aids in skill transfer, and it allows students to develop stronger analytical arguments to contribute meaningfully to scientific discourse.
    • Ultimately, developing critical thinking skills prepares students to tackle self-learning initiatives.

Contextualized Teaching:

  • As an instructor, I prefer small class sizes so that I can get to know my students’ names, interests, aspirations and challenges. This type of classroom atmosphere allows me to tailor concept comprehension to individuals and use personalized examples.
    • Smaller class sizes also allow me to directly observe each student to ensure he or she is developing operative critical thinking and writing skills.
    • Using an enthusiastic and interactive approach to teaching small- to moderate-sized classes excites the students and leads to heightened curiosity about the material.
    • I achieve similar outcomes in larger classes through a number of active learning techniques such as think-pair-share, which enables ample discussion and sharing of personal ideas.

Integrate Research & Teaching:

In addition to engaging students in the enthusiastic and contextualized manner, I also attempt to inspire curiosity about science through immersive experiences.

  • Bringing students to real research sites provides hands-on engagement of active research.
  • Ecological field methods are easily adaptable to campus settings themselves.
    • Allows students to carry out their own on-campus research projects while learning the scientific method and gaining practice in developing analytical research questions.
  • Both my ‘real-time’ forest research (and the innumerable ecological and environmental interactions that can be studied) as well as the spotted lanternfly monitoring study I’ve established provide multiple opportunities for students to conduct research in my lab.
    • I have already mentored 40+ students from nine academic institutions in a research capacity, and I welcome and encourage continued undergraduate involvement in my research.
    • My experiences studying a myriad of organisms and systems also enable me to easily and willingly provide research mentorship for a diverse range of projects.

A major goal of mine is to prepare students for STEM careers.

  • Hands-on undergraduate experience via lab work and research projects is paramount for initiating successful scientific careers.
    • Students will gain experience in developing proficient critical thinking, writing and communication skills through assigned research projects.
    • Teach them to use current analytical and statistical methods and software in order to learn how to apply these methods to new situations.
    • As an active member in regional and national professional organizations, I would also encourage student participation in organization meetings to gain networking and communication experience.


  • My own background at both small and large academic institutions, state parks, county organizations and a nature reserve enables me to provide strong mentorship for students pursuing research and careers in a diverse range of settings.
  • I already have extensive experience mentoring students as they prepare for research, internships and graduate school, and I look forward to continuing this role as a professor.
  • I have already mentored 40+ students from nine academic institutions in a research capacity, I have served as a vocation coach to multiple students for multiple years, and I have re-envisioned academic advising as a source for much broader and deeper mentorship.


I feel strongly that STEM students need to read, write and present scientific information in a clear and effective manner. As a result, my classes contain analytical writing and presentation components.

  • Each student must demonstrate the ability to critically analyze arguments, synthesize readings and class material, develop well-supported arguments and communicate their findings clearly.
  • Effective science communication goes beyond writing skills, so I also evaluate students based on their participation in oral discussions and effectiveness in presenting arguments.

Lab portions of my classes are similarly designed and assessed, but I place increased emphasis on the research process itself.

  • I evaluate students in lower level courses on their competency in following proper methods and their ability to make appropriate conclusions from collected data.
  • I additionally judge students in upper level courses on the originality and analytical nature of their research project questions.
  • By the end of a course, I expect my students to be better prepared to address new problems, think critically about the world around them, engage others effectively when sharing information and to have developed the work ethic and personal management skills necessary to be successful in and out of the classroom.

Faith and Science + Personal Vocation:

Finally, I feel strongly every student’s potential success hinges on their level of engagement with course concepts and ability to apply these concepts (and skills) to existing or new experiences in their own lives. To do so requires that students perceive the value of course material on an individual level. As a result, I design my courses to contain one or many components that challenge students to personally explore and reflect on the relevance of the course material to their own lives. Given the careerist perspective of many students, fostering some careerist motivation is often a good place to start. Ideally, though, my designed efforts extend beyond career trajectories to help a broader swatch of students to connect coursework to a deeper underlying personal worldview or identity. I believe that deeper connection is often best achieved by having students connect coursework explicitly to their faith and personal sense of vocational calling.

I find it absolutely imperative to help students of faith to realize that their lives do not need to be compartmentalized and that their efforts in even the smallest minutiae of a class or throughout a day are opportunities to grow in their personal calling toward holiness and to grow in loving relationship with others and, ultimately with God. As a science professor, I believe an important aspect of this is to stress and demonstrate the congruence and harmony to which science and faith interact. Faith seeks understanding, and understanding can be at least partially improved through science. Science, a systematic study of the observable world, is a tool for which we can gain a richer understanding/appreciation/faith of the world (and therefor God’s love for us).