30 Years and Counting…
Angelo State biology professor Dr. Crosby Jones has a habit of putting down roots.
As a result, his life can be divided into three distinct sections, his youth in Claremore, Okla., his college years at Oklahoma State University, and his career at ASU.
After spending his childhood and public school years in his hometown of Claremore, Jones moved on to OSU, where he stayed until he had earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in microbiology. After a short teaching stint at OSU, he took a job at ASU and has been here ever since.
“Angelo State was the first one to call me,” Jones said. “I came down for a visit and I liked the people here. When I got home, the head of the Biology Department called me and said ‘we want you.’ So I never even made another interview. This was the first place I interviewed and I have been here since 1978.”
It should not be a surprise, then, that Jones is also celebrating his 30th year as the faculty adviser for the ASU chapter of the Beta Beta Beta (Tri-Beta) biology national honor society. Under his guidance, the ASU group has blossomed from a small bunch of pre-med students into the most decorated chapter in the U.S.
Jones’ affiliation with Tri-Beta began in 1979, shortly after his arrival on campus. At the time, there were two biology student groups, the Biology Society for regular biology majors and Tri-Beta for pre-med biology majors. When he was approached by the Tri-Betas about being their faculty adviser he agreed, but with some conditions.
“I told them that if I was going to be the adviser, they would have to encourage all the students in the Biology Department to get involved because the department was not big enough to be split into separate groups,” Jones said. “They agreed to do that because it was actually what they wanted.”
“They also were really not doing much research,” he added. “So, I knew if we were going to have a strong chapter, that was one of the first things we were going to have to start emphasizing. The students were agreeable, the faculty supported it and the faculty still support that.”
So, Jones set about getting the group focused on the guidelines set up by the national Tri-Beta office, particularly student research. He also encouraged members to start traditions that had current and future worth, including the annual Tri-Beta Blood Drive and the yearly fall faculty-led field trip to a prominent West Texas ranch of interest to naturalists. For the last 27 years, he has also published the Beta Bylines newsletter five times a year to keep the students up to date on all the chapter activities, honors, research, gossip, publicity and more.
Nowadays, while he still spends quite a bit of time on the newsletter, Jones has toned down his role as adviser.
“Largely what I do is try to guide them in terms of what things we can and cannot do,” Jones said. “I see myself as the guide to help get them where they want to go. But, I don’t do most of the work anymore. The students pretty much do all of the work. I just try to keep them going in the right direction.”
With Jones guiding the way, the ASU chapter has won the Lloyd Bertholf Award for having the top chapter out of more than 510 in the U.S. and Puerto Rico a record six times from the national Tri-Beta office, including the most recent award in March. It took ASU 10 years to win its first award, but now it has won six in the last 20 years, including two of the last three.
“It took us that 10 years to get enough students involved in undergraduate research,” Jones said. “That is the key. You have to have people doing undergraduate research and taking it all the way up to making national presentations. If you don’t have that, you don’t win.”
ASU Tri-Beta students regularly win research presentation awards at regional and national conferences. Most recently, member research was honored at the annual meetings of the Texas Society of Mammologists and the Texas Academy of Science. Eight more presentations are planned for the Tri-Beta South Central Regional Convention in Kingston, Okla.
Through all the building years to its current ranking as the top chapter in the nation, the one constant in the ASU Tri-Beta chapter has been Jones. In fact, he has never missed a chapter meeting in his 30 years as adviser.
“I just think that if you are going to be an adviser, that is what you should do,” Jones said. “So, I attend all of our business meetings.”
But it has not been only a one-sided relationship. While the students rely on Jones for guidance, he also relies on them to keep him up to snuff in the classroom.
“Every year I have a new group of 21-year-olds that change a little from the previous year,” Jones said. “We have gone through it all together, from the computer-age things to text messaging, and I learn from them every year what is going on out there. I learn how they think and how they relate to people in the classroom, the kind of teachers they like and what kind of things they don’t like.”
“They talk to me about all types of things,” he added, “including what motivates them in the classroom. So, I use that to help me plan for the new year. I am constantly changing the way I bring up information in the classroom and I think it makes me a better teacher.”
Those practices are apparently working out well for Jones, who has received two “Rammy” awards for Professor of the Year in the College of Sciences from the ASU Student Government Association to go along with two “Rammy” awards for Adviser of the Year. He has also received a Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award from the ASU Alumni Association, the first-ever Yokley Award from the national Tri-Beta board for Adviser of the Year and the 2008 Yokley Faculty Leadership Award.
Those awards also validate Jones’ reason for choosing ASU in the first place. He wanted to concentrate primarily on teaching rather than research.
“The university has always given me the freedom to teach the way I think it should be done,” Jones said. “I also got involved with Tri-Beta the first year I was here and, ever since, that has really been a motivation for me, too. I don’t think I would be as good at teaching as I want to be without the year-to-year contact with the students in Tri-Beta.”
“I was going to stop advising at 25 years,” he added. “But, then we had a group come through that is one of the best ones we have ever had. So, I couldn’t give up then, and I’m still here.”