Get to Know HFC: Scott Still understands the journey of non-traditional students

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Portrait of Scott Still.

HFC English instructor Scott Still takes particular joy in working with adult students: He was a non-traditional student himself.

“I’ve heard it all. I have people tell me, ‘I have to work 40 hours a week, and I have a family.’ I get it; I’ve been there. I worked in a warehouse up to 30 hours a week, was raising two daughters, had a house, worked as a DJ on the weekends, and ran my own DJ business to put myself through my undergraduate program. It's personal to me,” said Still, of Plymouth.

He will tell adults students about other students he’s had who proved these challenges can be overcome. He will cite an example of a student who was kicked out of her house and became homeless. She gutted it out, completing Still’s class and earning her associate degree in nursing from HFC.

It's not all hardship, but “the question is: How much do you really want this?” said Still. “Getting an education is about building character as much as it is about gaining knowledge and earning that diploma.”

Attending HFC on an honors scholarship and the Michigan Competitive Scholarship

Born in Garden City, Still – the eldest of two and only son – grew up in Detroit and Dearborn Heights. He graduated from Crestwood High School in Dearborn Heights and enrolled at HFC (then Henry Ford Community College). Still was a member of what is now the Henry Ford II Honors Program and attended HFC on an honors scholarship and the Michigan Competitive Scholarship.

He earned his associate degree in liberal arts and was also several credits shy of earning another associate degree in electronics and an associate degree in business administration.

“I was floating,” he said. I didn’t know what I wanted to do.”

At HFC, Still met his now ex-wife, and they got married not long after graduation. They had an educational plan: She would return to college first and finish her bachelor’s degree, then he would. During that time, they had their first daughter.

Still earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English with a concentration in literature from Eastern Michigan University. He finished his bachelor’s degree 11 years after his associate degree and continued straight through graduate school. He completed additional coursework at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Schoolcraft College.

“Teaching is everything I dreamed it would be”

Still says he hated writing papers, which is ironic coming from an English major.

“I used to shop around classes and find the ones where you just took tests and papers weren’t required,” he said. “I used to write my papers long-hand and type them on a typewriter. My outlook on writing changed with the developing technology of computers and the word-processor. That really changed the game. Writing was arduous until word-processing allowed you to change things on the fly.”

At first, Still thought about becoming an attorney and even worked as a paralegal, but found that the legal field wasn’t for him. He decided to go into teaching.

“I attribute the desire to teach to my grandmother, who lived with us growing up. She was tough but nurturing,” he recalled. “As a graduate assistant, I found I loved working with students. I found teaching very fulfilling; it’s everything I dreamed it would be.”

"The College has benefited from Scott’s leadership talent and his heartfelt concern,” said fellow English instructor Ruth Ann Schmitt. “I have always admired his ability to engage students in literary theory and abstract thought by making it clear and applicable to their lives. Both his College service and his teaching are driven by his primary interest in helping students transition to the next level of economic and social success.”

Thrilled to be teaching at his alma mater

Still taught at EMU and Wayne State University before coming to HFC 20 years ago. He was looking for full-time teaching positions outside of Michigan. His family was willing to relocate, but not thrilled about it. After interviewing in Kentucky and North Carolina, he was ecstatic when his alma mater was looking for an English instructor.

Still almost moved south, but lucked into a bit of insider information. He scheduled an interview in North Carolina and called HFC’s Human Resources department to get his teaching portfolio back. Within minutes, then-HFC HR Director Dr. Sally Barnett called Still. During the conversation, she told him privately that they planned to offer him the job. He cancelled his trip to North Carolina and joined HFC part-time in 2003. He became a full-time faculty member in 2004.

“I was very happy to return to my alma mater to teach,” he said. “HFC is a great school. This is the career I wanted to go into.”

For the Fall 2023 semester, Still is teaching several sections of Introduction to College Writing for ELLs. Throughout his time at HFC, He has been very active in the College community, serving on numerous committees or acting in an advisory capacity, including:

  • The Center for Teaching Excellence and Innovation
  • The Instructional Technology Committee
  • Student Council co-faculty advisor
  • The Student Success Committee
  • The Faculty Senate

He is also one of the organizers of the “Thinking Outside the Box” symposium on Artificial Intelligence this fall

“There is no better feeling in the world”

"Scott is so insightful and such an energetic presence at the College and in the English department. His work with CTEI has been an incredible benefit to the faculty community and, by extension, to our students,” said fellow HFC English instructor Ruth Haller.

The reason fellow HFC English instructor Adam Hazlett is teaching at the College is because of Still.

“I remember going to the Michigan College English Association Conference in grad school when we were both at EMU,” recalled Hazlett. “Scott took me on a guided tour around campus, pointing out all the places where he had fond memories and fascinating learning experiences. On my first day of work at a school in Cleveland, Scott encouraged me to apply for a job at HFC. I never would have made that leap had it not been for him.”

He continued: “Our students are much better off for having an alumnus as a professor. I have watched Scott tirelessly serve students as advisor for Student Council, as a mentor for the Honors Program, as head of retention, and most recently as CTEI lead. No one believes in our students more than Scott. I am proud to call him a colleague, but more importantly, to call him brother.”

For Still, the best part of his job is hearing from his former students who tell them what a difference he made in their lives.

“I just get chills hearing how I've had a positive impact on someone’s life that’s far-reaching,” he said. “Teachers can be compared to doctors in some ways, except doctors give someone a better life physically, while wholistically teachers give someone a better life overall. There’s no better feeling in the world.”