ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY
Dr. Bill Garris, assistant professor of psychology, joined Tusculum College in 2008 and has quickly become an active member of the Tusculum community. And, in his new roles as "Guru of the QEP," (the College's Quality Enhancement Plan for Southern Association of Colleges and Schools reaffirmation of accreditation process Dr. Garris has quickly become a familiar face on campus.
It was a near miss; however, as Tusculum College nearly missed out on the warm smile, the psychology expertise and the faculty leadership skills of Dr. Garris, as he almost chose a different path and nearly became….a rock star. The accomplished pianist, composer and erstwhile band member seriously considered for a time pursuing a career in music before ultimately opting to pursue future studies in counseling and ultimately a doctorate in human development and family studies.
"I started piano lessons at age six, but I mostly play by ear," said Garris. Through the years he has continued his musical aspirations as a hobby, playing in several bands, including a student group at the University of the Cumberlands where he last taught. "At one point I thought about music as a profession and considered a career in pop/rock music," he added.
Fortunately for Tusculum College, Dr. Garris has spent more time this summer developing the College's QEP than giving live performances. Now living in Greeneville with his wife, Ashly, and their two dachshunds, Henry and Duncan, Dr. Garris is the spokesperson of the College's plan to improve students' problem-solving skills through critical thinking with reflective judgment.
"Reflective thinking is recognizing the limits (uncertainty) of knowledge and yet being able to construct a reasonable knowledge claim or solving a problem with a defensible solution, all the while holding this view tentatively and recognizing that with better tools or a different perspective that the truth of the situation may change."
Over the summer, Dr. Garris has led the QEP Steering Committee, authored most of the plan and has spent time with staff and faculty introducing them to the concepts and the plan for integrating those concepts into the Tusculum College culture.
When not inventing creative questions to solve with Reflective Judgment, Dr. Garris enjoys spending time with his three daughters, Lauren, Sarah and Liam, and he has taken up "tubing" now that he has located to East Tennessee.
With all he has to juggle on a daily basis, he still counts working with his students as his top priority. "It's a goal of mine to have the respect and affection of my colleagues, but what I'd like most is to be good at encouraging people," he said. He added that those who have had the most impact on his life have been those who "made me think I was just a little better than I was." A lover of words, Dr. Garris particularly likes the word "encourage," which in the original French breaks down to "en" meaning "to make" or "put in," and "courage" which means "heart."
"So, encourage might be more richly understood as to make, put in or reveal heart."
Encouraging words, indeed.
EDUCATION: Bachelor's of Science degree in psychology from Wofford College; master's degree in marriage and family therapy from the Reformed Theological Seminary; doctorate in human development and family studies from Iowa State University.
HISTORY: Dr. Garris was born in Columbia, S.C. and after spending time in Iowa, discovered he is a Southern boy to the core. He is happy to be once again living in the South and near his family in North Carolina.
GETTING A WORKOUT: Activities that top his list include gardening, inner tubing, tennis and playing Ultimate Frisbee.
MUSIC: Dr. Garris is a fan of soundtracks and movie scores. One of his favorites is the theme from "Battlestar Galactica." (He also enjoys listening to Coldplay.)