Shelley Hamill

Name: Shelley Hamill
Position: Professor of Health
College: Richard W. Riley College of Education, Sport and Human Sciences
Department: Physical Education, Sport and Human Performance

Coming to teach health at Winthrop University was a gamble for Shelley Hamill.

Offered a six-month contract in 1998 to fill in for an open slot, she took a chance. Now nearly 25 years later, as she was recently given the university’s top teaching award, she is thankful to have found a workplace that she loves.

“It has worked out so well,” Hamill said. “I have a very supportive department and college, who truly support my work.”

The feeling has been mutual, particularly with the importance of health during and after the COVID pandemic.

“COVID really made some shifts in how people look at health overall,” Hamill said. “We’ve moved away from just prevention to understanding how various parts play a role.”

Many areas affect a person’s wellbeing, she said, such as mental, physical, financial, spiritual, and family issues along with a support network and workplace.

Hamill said this generation of students tend to be more anxious and find it harder to socially interact with others due to overreliance on social media, which was then compounded by isolation due to the pandemic.

In the last couple of post-COVID years, Hamill has made it her priority to care for the whole student as she saw some students struggling to reconnect or readapt to regular classroom learning. She is known for creating safe learning spaces where students are comfortable in sharing their concerns.

“I love my field because we not only help students learn to make healthier choices that impact their overall health, we also help them develop resilience to work through challenges,” Hamill said. “The thing about health education and promotion is that it truly impacts people’s lives.”

Her work background has given her a good foundation to help students with life skills. A former elementary physical education teacher in Salisbury, North Carolina, Hamill traveled to seven schools to work with students. Burned out by the travel and work, she turned to sales for five years at Circuit City.

Missing teaching, she returned to education to teach physical education and to coach five sports on the middle and high school level. Next came a higher education job at Livingstone College, where she taught health to every freshman student at the small historical black college. “It was great,” she said. "I literally got to work with every incoming student.”

Hamill agreed to the short contract at Winthrop, then applied for an assistant professor’s job when it ended in what is now the Richard W. Riley College of Education, Sport and Human Sciences.

Over the years, she has earned the respect of her colleagues for her passion and compassion, not just in treating humans with respect and dignity but also animals. For several years, she volunteered with animal rescue missions around the country during natural disasters.

At December’s Commencement exercises at the Winthrop Coliseum, Hamill had two duties. She carried the university mace as the chief faculty marshal, and she accepted the Kinard Award for teaching.

She has taught more than 15 unique courses including various classes in health and health education at the graduate and undergraduate level in the Department of Physical Education, Sport, and Human Performance. Her areas of specialty include pedagogy and human sexuality. 

Hamill received her B.A. in physical education from Pfeiffer University, her master’s degree in health education at the University of North Carolina Charlotte and a Ph.D. in education (health specialist) from Walden University.

“Winthrop has felt like home for me,” said Hamill. “I am very fortunate to have found such a wonderful community.”