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The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

James and the giant personality

What does City College biology professor Stephen James believe? Science is not difficult. James couples his inquisitive yet humorous approach to teaching students with his passion for the environment. || Vincent Fernandez|| [email protected]

Everything you need to know about Stephen James you can tell from his office. A bookshelf overflowing with science books.  An aquarium that acts as a partition between his desk and the office he shares. All suggest that he is an open guy and an academic eccentric.
James represents a rarity on college campus—a professor who’s not afraid to hang out with students and who’s so accessible that one could imagine sitting down and socializing with him outside class.

James is a biology teacher, but he has kept the energetic and quizzical nature of a student. With his MacBook open, he prepares to share another YouTube video with the class.He is a frequent viewer of the “Daily Show,” “Colbert Report,” and “Two and a Half Men,” but he also immerses himself in modern science texts to interpret the material concisely to students.

“He is hilarious,” exclaims student Jane LaBass.“I sat in the front of the class and just laughed while taking notes. He is an engaging instructor.”

Class erupts in laughter when James tells stories of his experiences as a young adult while attending Santa Barbara City College and UC Santa Barbara. He says he wants to change the perception that science is too hard to digest and suggests that students “don’t rush through college.”

James says he had difficulties with many of his classes but credits his openness with instructors for ultimately helping him grasp material.

“I wish there was more of an interplay between students and teachers,” James says.

This longing brings him to describe the days when he was in college and it was common to go out for a drink with an instructor. James says he gets few visitors during his office hours.

Despite his avid attempts to help students succeed, James says he is disappointed
by students’ unwillingness to accept responsibility. He takes student failure as a personal failure.

“He invests a lot of time into students,” says fellow biology professor and office mate David Wyatt.
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Born in 1956, James, 54, says he remembers his being the first family on the street with a color television and constantly playing baseball in the streets.

“We were able to go out as kids,” James says. “There was no big fear.”

Raised by an ever-present mother and busy bank manager father, James’s first career choice was a truck driver. After graduating high school, he decided to go to college on a whim, where he channeled love of the outdoors into the study of biology.

James began noticing the damages done to the earth through the use of fossil fuels. He became more environmentally conscious.

Now, approaching global warming more as an average person and less as a scientist, James hopes to send a clear message to students: You can do something about the state of the environment.

While on a trip to Baja California, he confesses the sight of dolphins swimming alongside his boat brought him close to tears.

“I’m a pretty emotional guy,” James says. “Injustice to nature gets my sympathy.”

Usually dressed in Hawaiian print shirts and jeans, James admits he looks like he is ready for vacation and he is.

He loves teaching for many reasons, but particularly because it allows him to travel, which he believes is important to his personal growth.

“In America we can get very disconnected from the world, so it’s important to go out there and see how other people live,” James says.

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