Upholding the Faculty-Mentor Ideal
Just mention “turtles” and Randy Chambers’ entire face lights up. An associate professor of biology who specializes in wetlands ecology, Chambers has spent years researching these slow-moving omnivores and their habits in the waters of the Chesapeake.
And, more often than not, he is not alone in his studies. Having overseen the research of more than 90 students, predominantly undergraduates, since coming to William and Mary in 2001, Chambers personifies the faculty-mentor ideal. Not only does his impressive knowledge span four disciplines — biology, environmental science and policy (ENSP), marine science and geology — but he possesses an equally impressive commitment to students, especially in helping them understand the research process. Furthermore, he exudes an enthusiasm and sense of humor that are contagious even to the most reluctant scholars.
Best of all, the College will be the beneficiary of Chambers’ energy and expertise for a while longer, thanks in large part to Carol B. Talbot ’46.
Talbot established the Cornelia Brackenridge Talbot Term Professorship in 2006 in memory of her mother with mid-career professors like Chambers in mind. Her hope — and William and Mary’s — is that the endowment will help her alma mater retain its best science faculty at a time in their careers when they might easily be lured to other institutions.
According to Chambers, awards like the Talbot Professorship give teeth to William and Mary’s avowed dedication to its professors.
“It says, ‘You are appreciated and valued here’; it’s more than just an ‘atta-boy pat on the back,” he says, explaining that such signs of appreciation are crucial because of the high demand on professors’ time and energy to deliver the hands-on, personalized education that makes the College unique among its peers.
Initially brought to the College to serve as the first director of its Keck Environmental Field Laboratory (which he still heads), Chambers remains integral to the success of the ENSP program and serves as an important link between main campus and the College’s Gloucester-based Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS). He is also involved in a community organization that promotes watershed stewardship and education in Williamsburg and James City County.
Above all, however, Chambers takes to heart William and Mary’s commitment to providing students with an education that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
“It’s been drilled into the faculty’s heads that we are the best small public university in the nation,” Chambers adds. “That’s a distinction we take pride in and don’t want to lose, and our ongoing enthusiasm for undergraduate teaching and research are the key to that.”