By Thomas Kedzierski III
May 1, 2019
Anyone who has had a conversation with Charles Scruggs soon realizes they are to a lifelong scholar.
Scruggs, a professor of history at Genesee Community college, has been an educator for over 20 years. His official title is Professor of History, but that’s not all it says on his door: “Charles Scruggs, Professor of History, Political Science, and Geography.” While not an official position, Scruggs added onto his title because he said, “I’m labeled as a history professor, but also teach political science and geography. We don’t have official professors for these disciplines, so I added the title myself so students would not see them as throwaways,”
His career path was an easy decision for Scruggs, who grew up in a family of educators. “My dad was a high school English teacher and professor at Geneseo, while my mom was a reading specialist who became a third and fifth grade teacher,” said Scruggs, “I got used to the idea of organizing life around the school year, with summertime for rejuvenation, travel, and intellectual development.”
While the time off was alluring, the time in the classroom is what really attracted Scruggs. “The intellectual and performance aspects of teaching appealed to me,” Scruggs said.
According to his students, a performer he is. “Professor Scruggs is very energetic; it’s hard to fall asleep in his class, despite it being a morning class,” said former student Brian Wlazlak. “His teaching technique makes it really easy to retain the information.”
Other students agree on Scruggs propensity for preeminent pedagogy. “He is a really good teacher,” said student Cheyenne French, “He wants everyone to say an answer, even if it’s wrong. He wants people to at least try.”
A product of public education himself, Scruggs likes the similar nature of GCC. “I like this College’s ideas of open enrollment, inclusivity, and equity,” Scruggs said. “As a professor, a university is very pigeonholed, with a narrow range of courses. Here there’s a lot to stay on top of and keep learning myself.” Besides teaching at GCC, Professor Scruggs is a member of the Curriculum Committee and well as the faculty advisor for Phi Theta Kappa, the school’s Honor Society.
Despite being busy at work, Scruggs finds time outside of GCC to continue learning to do what he loves. Scruggs is a multi-instrumentalist who studies at the Eastman Community School of Music and has written six songs. “Music is the most sublime of all the arts; it has an emotional, intellectual, and physical component. It even ties back to geography; every country has a national anthem,” he said.
Starting with piano as a child, Scruggs studies drums and picked up the guitar his freshman year of college. “I walked into Buzzo’s Music in 1986 wanting a Gibson Les Paul. It had a $2000 price tag,” said Scruggs, “and I walked out with a Squire Telecaster for $200.”
Outside of his activities anchored around academia, Scruggs has a formidable physique, thanks to a lifelong interest in fitness. A member of the JCC in Brighton, he participates in “kettlebell lifting, high intensity interval training, heavy lifting circuit, as well as kickboxing.”
With 20 years under his belt, Scruggs has seen changes in the classroom and in how students learn. “The ability to access information has really been transformative,” said Scruggs. “The role of the teacher has changed. A majority of work can be done outside the classroom; now clarification and further exploration is the purpose of class time. One thing you can do is turn students to concepts to understand the big picture.”
Scruggs advises students to be open-minded when it comes to their careers. “Challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone; don’t be afraid to join groups and clubs,” Scruggs said. “Having a forty year career is unlikely in today’s environment. You have to be open to different possibilities. Nobody is likely to hand you a job. Marketing may get a bad name, but market yourself as a resource with skills, not as a commodity,”