[ Skip Main Nav ]

Phoenix Forward magazine

5 black faculty members give back by teaching

In recognition of Black History Month, five University of Phoenix instructors talk about how the desire to contribute to their communities led them to the classroom. Although not all of them began their careers with the idea that they would teach, once they did, there was no turning back. Here are their stories:

Aaron Bryant

Aaron Bryant

Bryant grew up in Compton, California, a city with a high concentration of gangs, and he initially wanted to become a cop. But after he was injured while an airborne ranger in the U.S. Army, he changed his career plans. Now working on his Doctor of Management at the University, he also is an instructor in the business program and the information technology program. He says that like his students, he too continues to learn.

“Each new class provides me with new experiences and new lessons that allow me to assess how I approach teaching,” says Bryant, who also is a senior project manager at Bear Data Solutions, a San Francisco-based IT company.

Bryant was drawn to the teaching profession after spending many years coaching and training others in martial arts. “I simply fell in love with helping others understand what I know, and I realized teaching was something I could do to contribute to society,” he says.


Betty Fomby

Betty Fomby

Fomby never wanted to be anything but a nurse. While pursuing an advanced degree in that field, however, she discovered another passion. “I had such excellent teachers that I wanted to be able to teach like them,” says Fomby, an associate professor of nursing at Southern University in Louisiana and an instructor in the University of Phoenix nursing program.

She’s also using her skills in other ways. In 2006, she helped found the Association of Nurses Working For Our Patients to provide care for Hurricane Katrina survivors. The organization has since expanded its goals to help seniors, adults and children gain access to medical care.


James Gilmore Jr.

James Gilmore Jr.

Gilmore says he was drawn to teaching by his mother, who raised him to help those in need. A believer in the power of education, Gilmore wants students to leave his human resource classes as innovative and critical thinkers.

“Education is the reason for my accomplishments now and in the future,” says Gilmore, who holds a doctorate in human resource and leadership development from Louisiana State University and owns a human resource consulting firm in New Orleans. “It has allowed me to feel confident in my contributions to society and the world.”


Patricia Neff

Patricia Neff

A firm but fair teacher named Mrs. Rose inspired Neff to follow in her footsteps. Ever since, Neff has been dedicated to education, starting out as an elementary teacher. She now serves as dissertation chair for the School of Advanced Studies.

Neff also is director of education enrichment for Pilgrim Rest Foundation in Phoenix. The foundation’s programs, she says, “supplement and enhance what children are learning in their respective schools so that they can progress to the next grade level without delay.”

For Neff, the best thing about teaching is when ideas “click” with her students. “Seeing that light bulb turn on in a student’s head when they understand a concept,” she says, “is the most inspiring and rewarding thing for me.”


Ralph Hughes

Ralph Hughes

Hughes began his career in law enforcement at age 21 out of a desire to stop the cycle of drugs and violence in his Harlem neighborhood. After seven years on the force, however, he realized a college education could help him do more. “I decided to earn my degree,” he says, “as a way to effect greater change in my community.” He eventually got a Doctor of Strategic Leadership from Regent University.

Once he started reaching his goals, Hughes decided he wanted to help others achieve theirs.

Now the area chair for the College of Criminal Justice and Security at the South Florida Campus, Hughes says the best part of teaching is seeing his students flourish. “I feel I have done my due diligence as an educator,” he says, “when my students succeed in the workplace because of tools I gave them.”

Interested in furthering your education?