From a corny joke to plants are cool: My Faculty Mentor, Dr. Unger

Morgan “Tyler” Knorr ’15 pictured above with his mentor Dr. Irene Unger, Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Science. Below, Knorr shares his take on Unger.

When asked the question “Who at Westminster most inspires you?” most students may list the same, charismatic faculty/staff members as one another. Names that I often hear come up include those of McRae, Amspoker, Tobias, Serota, Forsythe and a handful of others. And although I do not disagree that these people play a major role in the lives of many students here at WestMO, none of these are the professor that immediately comes to mind for me.

For the professor who does come to mind, I remember my first class with her the first day of my freshman year. She opened up with a corny, albeit funny joke: “So, have you guys heard about the new corduroy pillows…? No? They’re making all the headlines!” At that moment I knew that this was a professor I was going to get along with very well (and have gone on to have seven courses with).

Doctor Irene Unger is not a professor favored by many students. She at first comes off as too straightforward, a little gruff, and very intimidating. Her tests are challenging and her grading may at times seem unforgiving. However, this is not the case at all. Those who take the time to get to know her will find that Dr. Unger is very charismatic about her work and loves her career here at Westminster College. And although she may seem unforgiving in the classroom, she is anything but. Professor Unger constantly urges students to see her after class if they have any further questions, which few seem to do, or to simply drop by her office and chat sometime. She tries to find out what her students love and incorporate it into the lecture material in some way.

Dr. Unger is a professor that truly cares about her students.  I believe that she is the very embodiment of who a Westminster professor is supposed to be. Dr. Unger has changed my life here at WestMO in that she has forced me to work harder than any other professor. She has forced me to become a better, more hardworking student; thus, leading me to become a better person. Her courses are challenging, but interesting. And although her jokes are corny, they are always placed at the right time. She is very encouraging towards her students and will do anything and everything within her power to help them attain their goals. Dr. Unger has pushed me and many other students to reach our full potential.

Through her guidance I have learned of many opportunities that I may take advantage of after college. She has suggested countless internships, research grants, conferences that I may attend, and alternative fields of study that I may be interested in. Her legitimate care towards me truly exceeds the expectations I had for my college professors.

To Dr. Unger, if you are reading this, thank you. I cannot imagine my life here at Westminster College without a professor such as yourself. You’re not afraid to challenge your students and you don’t care if they like you or not; so long as they succeed, so long as they strive to do better.

And just so you know, you’ve finally convinced at least one student here at WestMO that “plants are cool.”

Knorr is a Biology major at Westminster College with a minor in Environmental Science. He aspires to work as a fish and game warden or a conservation agent after he graduates next spring. Knorr is originally from Kansas City, MO.

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