Botany professor nurtures plants and City College students’ lives

Matthew+Kay%2C+the+newly+hired+Botany+Professor%2C+spends+time+in+the+greenhouse+on+East+Campus+of+City+College+in+Santa+Barbara+Calif.+Wednesday+Feb.+12.
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Botany professor nurtures plants and City College students’ lives

Matthew Kay, the newly hired Botany Professor, spends time in the greenhouse on East Campus of City College in Santa Barbara Calif. Wednesday Feb. 12.

Matthew Kay, the newly hired Botany Professor, spends time in the greenhouse on East Campus of City College in Santa Barbara Calif. Wednesday Feb. 12.

Matt Johnson

Matthew Kay, the newly hired Botany Professor, spends time in the greenhouse on East Campus of City College in Santa Barbara Calif. Wednesday Feb. 12.

Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson

Matthew Kay, the newly hired Botany Professor, spends time in the greenhouse on East Campus of City College in Santa Barbara Calif. Wednesday Feb. 12.

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With his boxes of rainbow chalk and trusty thermos, Professor Matthew Kay is ready to start a full day of lecturing his new, wide-eyed botany students.

The third floor of the Earth and Sciences Building is now home to the new faculty member for the Biological Sciences Department.

“Honestly, the three hours for lab and lecture in this class feel like nothing because he makes everything relatable,” Hopena Pokipala, botany student, said.

The classroom is this enthusiastic teachers’ stage and the students are his avid audience. Botany 100 students leave their cut flowers at the door, in honor of Kay’s infectious green thumb.

Kay said that the most common question he’s asked is, “what is your favorite plant?”

“That’s too exclusionary,” Kay said. “I can’t pick just one, they all have their own charm. Just like the students here, everyone has their own charm.”

In botany you must nurture plants, aiding in their development, which is exactly what Kay is now doing for his students.

With an undergraduate degree in botany and a masters degree in marine biology, the University of Oregon graduate and Santa Barbara native said he was drawn back to City College because of its “natural beauty.”

For him, the classroom is a place where both students and teachers bring things to the table, making for a comfortable learning environment for all.

As a timid student’s face ignites with embarrassment after his failed attempt to draw a graph during a Botany 100 lecture, Kay assured the class that mistakes are accepted, as long as they are acknowledged. Lessons like this may just stick with students for longer than he expects.

With over 100 seats filled for all of Kay’s classes, botany student Lily Brand was “amazed at his dedication to student success… It’s only been two weeks and he already has everyone’s’ names down.”

The connection that Kay strives to make with his students compels them to pursue the future success he expects.

“I’m just trying to maintain [City College’s] standard of excellence,” he said.

Flustered by questions and the erratic schedule of a new professor, Kay reflects on his time spent as a faculty member thus far.

“I know this might sound cliché, but there’s such  harmony here on campus; the faculty, students, and everything else come together and truly make it somewhere you want to be.”

Kay is cultivating a new learning environment at City College, where the seeds of his teachings are sprouting in the fresh minds of students.

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