When East Carolina University business professor Douglas Schneider got a late-night email from his students the evening before their exam, the professor did not expect the viral response he received after helping the students.
After a student posted a picture of Schneider helping them study in Joyner Library on Twitter on Oct. 5 with a time stamp of 11:10 p.m., the image went viral on several social media outlets including Facebook and Instagram. The post, which was retweeted on Twitter more than 7,000 times, showcased Schneider’s dedication to service— a vocation he does not take lightly.
“It is extremely heartwarming that Dr. Schneider is getting recognition for his dedication to his students, I couldn't think of anyone more deserving,” Kristina Mueller, an accounting major at ECU who was part of the group, said. “Dr. Schneider is a very generous person and it’s very easy to tell he cares about the success of his students, not just in his class but onward into their careers as well.”
Schneider sat in his office surrounded by many awards, plaques and photos of the past, as he shared with a modest smile his version of what happened that night.
“The whole thing kind of had a life on its own,” Schneider says. “It was totally unexpected by me, I didn't feel like I was doing anything all that unusual.”
Schneider says he loves getting to teach hard working individuals such as the ones who emailed him from Joyner Library that night. For him, the viral picture really could have captured any professor at ECU.
“I was glad to help and they really appreciated it,” he says. “Plus it was a good thing for me to see that there are students studying late in the library for their test the next day.”
Schneider, who has been teaching at ECU for 27 years now, says he has always made a point to be involved in students lives outside of the classroom. For him, the formation of these relationships is key to a student's success at ECU and in the workplace.
‘I’ve always tried to get to know the students the best I could,” Schneider said. “Also I am aware that most students want to get a job when they get out, so that helps me focus on what their needs are.”
As an advisor for several student groups including the National Association for Black Accountants at ECU, the national honors fraternity for financial information students and professionals Beta Alpha Psi and the social sorority Alpha Delta Pi, Schneider has always worked to serve the ECU student body to the best of his abilities. The professor regularly brings in professional or philanthropic opportunities for these groups, in addition to working within the Department of Accounting and teaching classes throughout the week.
“That’s very important to help students, not just in the classroom but also through that stage in life after they graduate,” Schneider says. “I began to realize this is a group of students who really could benefit from a lot of positive encouragement and somebody wanting to help them in their career.”
As a self described “workaholic,” Schneider never actually planned on getting into higher education. While working as an accounting manager at a young age, Schneider realized his true passion was teaching the new people in his office how to do their job. After deciding to go to graduate school at the University of Virginia, Schneider was persuaded by professors to go to the University of Georgia where he later received his doctorate.
John Reisch, the chair of ECU’s College of Business Accounting Department, said in addition to being a knowledgeable professor, Schneider has proven to go above and beyond for his students by often writing letters of recommendation and acting as a liaison between students and potential employers.
“Dr. Schneider will tell you that everyone in the accounting department will go to extremes to help their students, and while I believe that is true, no one reaches out more than Doug,” Reisch said. “He is willing to meet students outside of class at all hours and he is a quiet advocate for many students.”
After being featured on ABC’s Good Morning America as well as several local media outlets last week, Schneider, who doesn’t have a Twitter account himself, has become somewhat of a social media staple. Despite the recent attention this accounting professor has seen, he says his inspiration comes from ECU and its hard working students.
“I try to stress that there’s many dedicated people who work at ECU and that we have a great group of students that do work hard and that ECU has a lot to offer as a school.” Schneider says. “I deliberately try to make sure that message came through because I never felt any of this was really about me it was about ECU and what kind of place we have here.”
Mueller shares her professors sentiment that many faculty members at ECU work hard to help students succeed.
“Dr. Schneider is an excellent representation of ECU and although he was the only professor recognized for going above and beyond for his students, I have yet to encounter faculty or staff here that does not care about the success of their students,” Mueller said.
While he appreciates the kind words he’s gotten in response to the post, Schneider is quick to move the spotlight towards ECU as a leader in higher education.
“I think too often ECU gets overlooked or sometimes the focus is on one unfortunate incident and that seems to overshadow every positive thing we have here,” he says. “When the publicity related to this started to occur, I wanted to make sure that a proper light was shined on ECU and the students here.”
Schneider does not only see his commitment towards his students and their education as something for them, but also a relationship that is rewarding for him in many ways.
“I would say that almost every faculty member I know is involved in one degree or another with their students (lives) I find that if I don't get with the students teaching would just not have the same meaning to it,” he says. “When you get to know the students, and you're involved with them in other capacities, it creates a different motivation.”
Reisch described Schneider as an asset to both the College of Business and the department of Accounting. He said the publicity surrounding his colleague serves as an important lesson for students, to always pay the kindness forward.
“Too often we fail to acknowledge those who have helped us along the way,” said Reisch. “A simple action can have far-reaching effects. In this case, just recognizing a professor’s help created well-deserved recognition for a professor and ECU as a whole.”