Student Spotlight: Korbyn Peebles
Mustang native and history major Korbyn Peebles originally heard about USAO through a friend and decided to enroll thanks to the university’s generous financial aid offer. But he quickly found that the relationships forged with his professors and fellow students would be what really set this institution apart from the rest. Now the incoming class president of USAO’s Student Government Association, Peebles is excited to get back to the classroom this fall.
“The professors really stand out across this university,” said Peebles. “The small class sizes really provide a unique dynamic to courses, and one’s USAO experience varies significantly depending on which professors you have because of those small classes!”
Though he initially planned to pursue a career as an academic, Peebles may have decided on a different path but has stuck with USAO’s history department “because of the fantastic professors within the field.”
When asked who his biggest mentor on campus is, Peebles says this is “the easiest question so far: Zach Simpson,” associate professor of philosophy and religious studies.
“Dr. Simpson has opened my eyes to great ideas, but more important than my academics, he has helped me become a better person,” he said. “He is a faculty member I trust with not just schoolwork, but with my own personal problems as well. He and I have worked together on my Research Endorsement for the past year and through our time together I feel closer to him than any other professor. Thank you, Dr. Simpson!”
Like every other Drover, Peebles saw his education upended thanks to the rapid spread of COVID-19 across the nation, and, while he feels that USAO took the necessary precautions to keep everyone safe, he also sees plenty of places for improvement as we all make accommodations for this new reality.
“I think I speak for many students when I say, ‘it sucks!’ Working from home adds a lot more distractions and obstacles to overcome than in the classroom. Classes that are discussion-driven have suffered tremendously because of social distancing too.”
Given that the culture at USAO emphasizes interpersonal collaboration and close working relationships between students and faculty, the sudden shift to online courses was a sea change for the entire institution.
“The most difficult part I believe was how many faculty and students alike were just not fast enough to adapt” said Peebles. “A few professors and students adjusted very well, but many others struggled to teach or learn effectively under the circumstances. On top of that, I think that communication between student and faculty became more difficult and many students were discouraged by that disconnect.”
As SGA president, Peebles is excited to work beside USAO faculty, staff and administration as the voice of the student body, offering their concerns and feedback as activities cautiously resume. While getting back to the close-knit environment so many Drovers cherish is important, he also hopes to help develop specific, proactive solutions that will be ready to keep everyone safe in case of an outbreak of COVID-19 on campus.
“I hope that those opinions will be heard, and the student body can have a real impact shaping the future of our university,” he said. “I think students have been underrepresented among these overreaching issues, and, as president, I am excited to instate the student body among these conversations.”
While talk of the novel coronavirus has dominated so many conversations this year, Peebles has still found a number of ways to look beyond the pandemic when things get discouraging. And he notes that no one needs to deal with such a stressful situation on their own; besides the counseling services that USAO offers, Red Rock Behavioral Health is close to campus and often provides services free of charge to young adults.
“Having hope that the future will not be like it is today gives me confidence to go forward and make the most of these times,” he said. “I have my wonderful girlfriend to thank for my sanity, Jamilyn Alexander. I would encourage any student to consider their own mental and physical health over their studies. I know many have had some negative responses to the pandemic and are trying to push past those concerns without discussing them. I believe suppressing them is unhealthy and can only damage your other goals.”