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Wednesday, May 25, 2022
<p>UF professor of entomology and nematology Carl Barfield relaxes in his backyard after a day of gardening Monday afternoon. Barfield will be retiring after 35 years of teaching.</p>

UF professor of entomology and nematology Carl Barfield relaxes in his backyard after a day of gardening Monday afternoon. Barfield will be retiring after 35 years of teaching.

On the first day of Summer B, entomology and nematology professor Carl Barfield sat perched on a desk at the front of an auditorium in Turlington Hall, his eyes surveying some 200 students who would be the final recipients of his teaching career at UF.

"For better or for worse," he boomed, when all the shuffling and seat-swapping subsided, "this is my swan song."

Barfield, 63, who has taught at UF for 35 years, is retiring at the end of the summer term, he said. His teaching contract officially expired July 31, but he will continue to instruct his Bugs and People class through August 4 "for free," he said with a grin.

Rebecca Baldwin, who has known Barfield for 10 years, will take over teaching his Bugs and People class starting in the fall. She said she'll be keeping essentially the same curriculum.

"He is an amazing mentor," she said. "I'm super excited to continue the tradition."

Barfield said he began teaching at UF on August 1, 1976. In the five days prior, he finished and defended his dissertation, married his wife, Beverly, and moved to Florida to take the teaching job.

Since then, he has held a number of positions, including associate director of University Honors Program, associate director of IFAS International Programs, associate Provost and university and college adviser. Over the course of his career, he taught about 30 different courses, including undergraduate courses in ecology and a Ph.D. course on integrated pest management. He has outlasted five department heads.

Fourteen years ago, Barfield dreamed up the curriculum for his perennially popular Bugs and People class, with the intent of increasing students' understanding about the role various bugs play in their everyday lives.

Barfield often uses a little shock value to get his point across, showing videos of maggot therapy and apitherapy, or bee-sting therapy, as well as "bug pornography." Toward the end of each semester, he also does a lecture on insect-vectored human diseases.

His goal in showing students how much suffering some bugs cause in other parts of the world is to make them realize how fortunate they are.

"You people getting paranoid?" Barfield asked his summer class, after explaining the FDA's legal allowances for bug parts and larvae in food.

"Yes," said a girl in the front row.

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"Good," Barfield said. "Get over it."

In 1997, he began speaking to freshman Preview groups about what faculty expects out of students. Since then, he has been the only faculty member who talks to every UF freshman. He said he averages 1,000 emails each fall from those students alone.

"All the things I warned them about - they found out it's true," he said. "Basically, this isn't high school."

Barfield estimates that he's had about 1,000 students take Bugs and People every year since its inception.

He's seen some memorable things, both in and out of the classroom.

He said students occasionally pass out or throw up while watching videos of maggot therapy in class.

Once, a pair of engineering students who had been out drinking all night wandered into Bugs and People, and Barfield let them stay.

The most rewarding part of his teaching career has been watching students grow socially and emotionally and help with the process, he said.

Every year during Preview, he has "adopted" one student who looks like they need help.

Rachel Podnos was one such student. She didn't have the grades her first year of college, and she felt lost.

Although she wasn't taking Bugs and People, she was on the cheerleading team, for which Barfield was the academic adviser. Podnos started going to see him, and he taught her how to "do college."

Podnos is now entering her third year at UF's Levin College of Law.

"He really cares," she said. "He really wants you to do well, and he does whatever he can to help you. I don't think I would've improved my grades like I did if it wasn't for him."

Now that he's retiring, Barfield plans to do something he hasn't had time for in the past: become a host at The Flying Biscuit Café.

"I've always wanted to do that," he said. "I've got the people skills, and now I'm going to do it."

He will also teach two classes at St. Leo University during the fall.

UF professor of entomology and nematology Carl Barfield relaxes in his backyard after a day of gardening Monday afternoon. Barfield will be retiring after 35 years of teaching.

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