Olivet College
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Cynthia “Cea” Noyes, J.D., has worked at Olivet College for nearly 25 years. She currently serves as chair of the Social Science Department, professor of sociology/anthropology and director of the Betsy Dole Women’s Resource Center. In her teaching, Professor Noyes aims to help students build on prior learning and apply classroom lessons to the world around them. She encourages her students to engage in internships and volunteer service as they study so they can gain a better understanding of why they are doing what they are learning.

What brought you to OC?

My spouse actually came to OC and I came with him. He got a position in the Office of Advancement so we moved out here. I was offered a job teaching for another professor who had become ill and who would not be able to teach that semester. The class was Physical Geography. I continued picking up classes in sociology/anthropology, interdisciplinary studies and social studies, and later worked in admissions, student life and with policy issues. Finally, I began teaching full time. Later, I became chair of the Social Science Department, and in 2014, I took on the directorship of the Betsy Dole Women’s Resource Center. I love teaching and I love working on gender issues so the dual role is a good fit for me. 

Why do you love Olivet College?

The students, the work and my colleagues. I feel incredibly blessed to be able to work closely with students. I take my students as I get them and it is fascinating to see how students have changed and remained the same over my time here. My students are interested in many different things. I love the challenge of trying to make sure they get not only the education they need, but the education they want. 

During my own time as a college student, I found that my education was enhanced by being able to just sit and talk with a professor. I feel that I have been put in a position where I can pay that forward, and I can only hope I can do for my students what my professors did for me.

Where does your passion for teaching stem from?

Jeff Humphrey ’19 recently named Professor Noyes his most influential professor as a top five graduate and Donald A. Morris Academic Excellence Award recipient.

I love learning. I love working with students and helping them learn. I grew up in a family whose family credo was “learn something.” I want my students to engage in the world around them and learn how to act on what they believe in. My dad was career Air Force. He never interfered with my political beliefs, even though my anti-war activism was cause for him having more than one chat with his squadron commander. I grew up being told that I didn’t have to agree with those in authority, but I should always be able to support my beliefs and opinions with facts.

What is your teaching style like?

“Dad’s Rule” — believe what you want but support your beliefs. This informs my approach to teaching. I want my students to learn how to find the facts, identify opinions, assess the validity of what they’ve learned and be able to put it all together in their own way. I can’t force a student to study or learn, but I can model the joy of learning. 

Why is the Betsy Dole Women’s Resource Center an important part of campus?

We need a place where we can have discussions about gender inequity and justice. We need a place where we can explore as many of the intersections of gender as possible. We need a place where we can talk about the role that gender plays in our lives, from feminism to masculinities.  The Center can do that. 

Why do you encourage students to attend OC?

We are a small school with faculty and staff who care about the success of our students. That may sound cliché, but the level of engagement between students, faculty and staff is healthy, and I think we are all the better for it. 

What do you look forward to in your role?

I am very interested in alternative dispute resolution. I am hoping to get certified as a mediator in Michigan and to further develop my skills in the area of restorative justice. I’ve also started some research relating to our cultural perceptions of the environment and how those affect environmental policy, and I’m looking forward to reading and writing about it.

What advice do you share with students?

With regard to academic work — find something that intrigues you and persist in it. Find someone who can help you pursue that. On a less esoteric level — if you are having problems, talk to someone who can help. With regard to life after college — everyone will tell you what you should do. You’re the one who has to wake up in a few years and go to work. Why don’t you pursue something that will make you happy to do so?

What is an interesting or little-known fact about yourself?

I’m teaching myself to play the electric bass. It’s a slow process, but it’s fun. I love the bass and listening to musicians like Tal Wilkenfeld, Esperanza Spalding and Jaco Pastorius. 

Learn more about Olivet College by contacting the Office of Admissions at 800-456-7189 or admissions@olivetcollege.edu.

 

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