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60 Years of Stories! Dwayne T. James

Dwayne T. James, P.E., math professor, STLCC-Forest Park 2011-2017


“I taught algebra at St. Louis Community College as an adjunct professor for six years. I loved it. I absolutely loved every minute of it. I used to say to my students, ‘I haven’t had a great day, but I am so happy to be here. I am going to have fun, hopefully, you’ll have fun with me.’ Every second of it was a pleasure. I miss it. I wish I was still teaching at STLCC.”

~Dwayne T. James, math professor, STLCC-Forest Park, 2011-2017


Dwayne T. James, P.E., has deep roots at STLCC. In fact, without STLCC there would be no Dwayne. In 1965, just three years after the College was founded, his parents enrolled at STLCC. “My parents actually met at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park. My dad studied business before graduating from the University of Missouri-St. Louis with a degree in accounting. My mom studied nursing before going to Harris Teachers College, now Harris-Stowe State University, to become a teacher.”

James’ familial ties to math and education continue to guide him today. After college, which included supplemental courses at STLCC-Florissant Valley, he began his career in civil engineering. During his 20-year engineering career, James jumped at every opportunity to promote the career field to high school and college students. At some point, the pull to education became too strong to resist. “STLCC was my first step into education. I loved engineering, but the opportunity to make a direct impact is just so exciting. I began working at STLCC as an adjunct while I was still working as an engineer at my day job.” 

“The thing I liked most about STLCC is the diversity of students who come through the door. My classroom was a microcosm of St. Louis. STLCC students bring such a rich and diverse set of experiences, perspectives and knowledge into the classroom. As a professor, it challenged me to work with it and learn from it,” recounted James. As an institution that serves the entire St. Louis region, STLCC remains committed to providing educational opportunities and access for all people. 

Algebra, and math in general, can be intimidating for many students, but with a career in civil engineering, math is central to the job. His deep understanding of everyday math underscores the commitment he has to the role of STLCC’s workforce development and career training efforts. “For our region, STLCC provides entryways to so many careers - nursing, automotive technology, trades, fashion, culinary arts, etc. How do you talk about math in a way that relates to students? Everything I taught was in the context of their lives and future careers. I love teaching math and providing opportunities for students to understand math and relate it to their day-to-day life.”

James’ love and appreciation for math began with his grandfather. “My grandfather would take my brother and me on trips. He would talk about math in the sense of planning a trip. He would have me calculate the expected mile marker based on the number of miles we were traveling. When making purchases, I would be asked to calculate the money required or the change expected. As he spoke, he taught me math, which is what first got me interested.” Learning math in this applied way is an opportunity James provided to his STLCC students. In fact, he is studying these ideas as he pursues a doctorate in education with an emphasis in STEM. His dissertation focuses on how relating math to students’ real-world experience improves learning and retention, an approach he first honed at STLCC. Dwayne T. James, Ferguson Youth Initiative

Today, he has made the full career pivot from engineering into education and public service. He works for the University of Missouri Extension as the urban county director/community engagement specialist in community development for St. Louis, and as lead for equity, diversity and inclusion for MU Extension. As the CES, he co-facilitates the Neighborhood Leadership Fellows and Youth Empowerment Program. He also works as a co-facilitator for the Civic Scholars program at Washington University in St. Louis Gephardt Institute. 

James is not only dedicated to students, but also to the community. He is a former council member for the city of Ferguson, is the race director for the award-winning Ferguson Twilight Run, is a founding member of Ferguson Youth Initiative, and serves as board member on a number of local nonprofits dedicated to education and building community capacity.

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