Jabari Bodrick, 2021 University 101 Teacher of the Year

Forging student connections

U101 Teacher of the Year prepares students for college success

It’s a fact that students who complete University 101 at the University of South Carolina do better in their collegiate pursuits. Having Jabari Bodrick as your U101 instructor is icing on the cake.

Just ask the students who nominated Bodrick, associate director of the Leadership and Service Center on campus, for this year’s U101 Teacher of the Year award. He was one of 220 U101 instructors in fall 2020 and was recently named the program’s Teacher of the Year.

“Dr. Bodrick is one of the best teachers I've ever had,” wrote Ava Donnelly. “He is understanding, kind and caring. He genuinely wants every student to succeed.”

“I would love to take his class again if I could. He was always there to listen to our problems and give his feedback about what we need to fix or just listen to us rant,” added Scarlett Nash. “He made us feel like a family.”

Bodrick, who joined the university in 2016 after earning his Ph.D. in college student affairs administration from the University of Georgia, has been teaching first-year experience courses for years, but his approach is usually the same.

“I understand that a lot of them are overwhelmed with the idea of having to do real college work, and so I try to approach it with a lot of patience,” says Bodrick, a Charlotte, N.C., native. “I understand that they're becoming adults, still learning how to to study, and I approach teaching with a lot of humility, understanding that I don't know everything about their generation.”

Bodrick team teaches with U101 Peer Leaders — undergraduates who have excelled in their studies — which helps him to more easily connect with the students. His Peer Leader this year was Kennedy Perlas, who “did a phenomenal job connecting with students,” he says.

“When appropriate, I share candid stories about my past shortcomings as a student, a family member and a friend,” Bodrick says. “I frame those stories as learning opportunities and use them to provide evidence that no one in infallible. I encourage my students to reflect on my stories and to give themselves grace when they inevitably make a mistake within or beyond the classroom.”

Bodrick created a charades game that helps students to better navigate campus and learn more about campus buildings. With his co-instructor, he offered students a presentation that explored the root causes of difficult conversations and included advice on how to conduct such conversations with friends and family members.

Ultimately, Bodrick says he judges his performance as a U101 instructor on his students’ ability to successfully transition into the university, which includes knowing how to register for classes, navigate campus, sign a lease, find parking and gracefully participate in difficult conversations.

“This past year with COVID was tough, but it was very fulfilling to come to class and see students actually enjoy it, and hear them tell me it was their favorite class,” he says. “There were times when we had some people out due to COVID and things, and I was like, ‘Well, maybe should we go completely virtual?’ But people legitimately wanted to be in class. Now, is it hard to teach virtually and when people are in class at the same time? Yes, but we did that and it was a very fulfilling semester.”

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