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Overcoming and educating

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Biology professor Kate Marley helping a student during a class.

Dim fluorescent lighting casts Lied 152 in comforting shadows. A sunset orange Powerpoint presentation adds to the calm atmosphere. Orange is an unusual color choice for a morning presentation, but a blue light filter is an essential adaptation for classes taught by Professor of Biology, Kate Marley. Beneath the baker boy cap and red-tinted glasses stands a unique professor to Doane.  

Marley has been a professor at Doane for 19 years and said her love for science and teaching has grown with her time spent here. Her father and both of her grandfathers went to graduate school and received PhDs while her mother went to graduate school and received a master’s degree, so going to college was a no brainer. After receiving her bachelor’s, Marley went to graduate school at Florida State University. 

At first, Marley did not know what she wanted to do after graduate school, but she thought about where her passion lies. 

“When I thought about it, my dream job was teaching science at a small college,” Marley said. 

From this thought, Marley applied to different small universities throughout the country and settled on Doane after graduating in 2000, where she has been ever since. Marley said Doane felt like the best school for her because of the close community and great students and faculty she gets to work with.

Marley works with other science professors to create the best science department possible for Doane. One of the ways Marley collaborates is by co-teaching the Genetics courses with assistant professor of Biology, Dane Bowder. 

Bowder said he met Marley in 2008, when she was the professor of his Genetics class, along with some of his other science courses. 

“It is cool to be back now, teaching this class alongside her,” Bowder said.

Developing this professional relationship with someone who was once his professor is a unique experience, and Marley is a great mentor to both him and other professors and students within the science department Bowder said.

Marley loves to help others, though she is also taking time to focus on herself. She is still healing from a brain injury that occurred three and a half years ago. In Feb. 2016 a strong gust of wind caught her door which slammed into her shoulder, propelling her into the driver’s seat. However, her head did not clear the frame of the car, so the front right corner of her head collided with the frame. 

From this, Marley was diagnosed with a severe concussion and had to take five weeks off. 

“Right after, I had a permanent migraine,” Marley said. “I was left with balance and speech problems. I couldn’t concentrate or look at a computer screen and it hurt to read off of the paper.”

Her recovery took over a year and each day brought new struggles, both physically and mentally.

Since the accident, Marley has regained all cognitive and physical abilities, though she still gets migraines. Her red lensed glasses help with that. 

“Blue light wavelengths, the kind that light up electronic devices, trigger migraines. The red lenses on my glasses filter out blue light, which eases migraines,” Marley said.

In addition to wearing red-tinted lenses and a billed hat, Marley also does Aikido to gain balance back and control of her body. She said this activity brings her peace and composure she did not know she could have after her accident.

Along with lifestyle changes, this life-altering experience changed how Marley approached teaching. She says the accident gave her a new understanding of students with different abilities and the accommodations needed within the classroom, especially when it comes to concussions.

“I know what it was like trying to recover and be in the classroom, having done it myself,” Marley said. “I know what technology and strategies to use that can help make students’ transition easier.”

Marley can empathize with her students through unfortunate circumstances of her own, though she is not the type to let a visual impairment or any obstacle get in the way of giving her students and everything she does her all. It is this dedication to science, Doane and its students that make Marley a resilient and strong presence that is vital to a positive Doane experience.