WSC welcomes new chemistry professor

Hannah Keller, Staff Writer

Brett Cagg, a chemistry professor, joined Wayne State College faculty at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year.  

Cagg said he enjoys working with the students the most when it comes to his daily responsibilities as a professor.  

“Above all, I’ve enjoyed the students. I haven’t really enjoyed the weather,” Cagg said.  

David Peitz, professor of chemistry and department chair of the Physical Sciences and Mathematics department, had a few words to say about Cagg.  

“Last year, the department was looking for a physical chemist with strong general chemistry teaching experience,” Peitz said. “Dr. Cagg fit the bill.” 

Peitz said Cagg’s expertise in physical chemistry nicely compliments the current faculty expertise and he works well with his colleagues in the multi-section general chemistry courses. 

“Not being from Nebraska, we exposed him to Temperature Tuesdays at Runza and he has handled being a KC Chiefs fan in a Minnesota Vikings area of campus,” Peitz said. 

Cagg received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Missouri Western State University, and a minor in physics then went on to the University of South Carolina for his doctoral degree. 

After two years of teaching experience at Auburn University, followed by five years of teaching at Brescia University, Cagg joined the faculty members of the Physical Sciences and Mathematics Department. He teaches chemistry courses, specifically focusing on physical chemistry, general chemistry, thermodynamics, and quantum mechanics. 

“There’s a lot of things I learned from my time at Auburn that I still use today,” Cagg said.  

Cagg said teaching at Auburn University allowed him to have more of an internship experience, where he didn’t teach full-time, but still got paid.  

Wanting to be a little closer to home, when Cagg saw the opening at Wayne State College, he decided to take the job.  

“Coming back to a small community like Wayne was appealing,” Cagg said.  

Being raised just outside of St. Joseph, Missouri in a rural community, he attended small schools growing up. Cagg said rural communities are where his roots are.  

Cagg said moving to a small campus environment, Brescia University, which is smaller than Wayne, he got to know the students well but at the same time, there was a lot of responsibility put on him because the department was smaller. He gets the best of both worlds at Wayne because it’s not as small as Brescia.  

At Brescia, he taught the whole breadth of chemistry classes that they have there. When coming to Wayne, he can focus more on his interest in chemistry, which is specifically physical chemistry. 

Cagg’s decision to go into this field stems from his enjoyment of science during high school. Cagg said the more he got into chemistry in high school, with the classes he took, the more he started enjoying it.  

“I could do the memorization, but I wanted to know why,” Cagg said, which is also an aspect he emphasizes to his students.  

“I don’t want students to necessarily memorize the formulas or definitions, but I want them to be able to use the concepts,” Cagg said.  

Like most professors, Cagg has his own teaching philosophy that he goes by. Cagg said his philosophy involves a lot of activities and active learning.  

“I really like students to engage with the material and work on problems on their own before I provide them answers,” Cagg said. “I like a lot of group work, it’s the foundation of science for me. Trying to build that teamwork dynamic into my course is something I do.”  

Cagg explained further about what he’s looking forward to in the coming years. He said he’s looking forward to improving his physical chemistry classes as well as digging into experiments to inspire the students.  

“Planning demonstrations and experiments that bring concepts to life for students is something I’m looking forward to,” Cagg said.