Put a Cork in It – Damir Siahkoohi

With this post, current EKU student Damir Siahkoohi pays tribute to Dr. Sara Zeigler, one of the female leaders who has impacted his experience as a student and a member of the mock trail team. Dr. Zeigler is currently the Dean of University Programs and the director of EKU’s esteemed mock trial team. She has also served in the role of  director of the Women’s Studies program (2002-2005) and as the Chair of the Department of Government (2006-2010).

“Growing up the son and brother of two very strong, outgoing women, I am no stranger to egalitarianism. When I entered college, I had met very few people that their very presence garners the respect of everybody in their vicinity. I first met Dr.Zeigler at a try out for mock trial; I can honestly say that short of being threatened with torture and hard labor in Iran, I have never been more scared. From first appearances, Dr.Zeigler to me was frightening, intimidating, nerve-racking, intelligent, and demanded respect. However, when I was able to develop a relationship with her through mock trial, my view of her evolved from a scary coach to a renaissance woman and a friend.

Dr. Zeigler over the years has touched and changed countless lives by her constant exuberance of wit and wisdom and her willingness to bend over backwards for a student, as long as the student shows effort in return. Personally driving the van on many of the mock trial trips, Dr. Zeigler’s seemingly infinite vault of knowledge ranges from helping the students on homework by illustrating the difference of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, which suit designer looks more professional while in front of a jury, breaking down and perfecting mock trial openings and closings, and enlightening us on which is better: P90x or Insanity (she gets up and works out every morning before the break of dawn and has personally completed both). In a year and a half, I have never seen her not in a suit and heels, I knew nothing of her personal life until recently I learned the name of her husband, and I have never seen her not handle any situation without the highest level of professionalism. Recently, I had to look something up on her vita, to my surprise she is more published that Leo Tolstoy in fields ranging from, “Women as Academic Leaders” to, “Wifely Duties: Marriage, Labor and the Common Law in Nineteenth Century America.”

Dr.Ziegler’s ability to change and mold any situation for the positive, even with the most unusual of means, is remarkable. For example, in the middle of last year’s mock trial season, I was having problem enunciating my lines (I was a foreign cab driver). After diagnosing the problem that I was not opening up my mouth enough, the next practice she came in with a wine cork telling me to never talk or do my lines without that cork in mouth. At first, I thought this MacGyver-like solution was the silliest thing I have ever heard. Nevertheless, two weeks, a tournament, and an outstanding witness award later, that would be the last time I would doubt one of Dr.Ziegler’s solutions.

Over the last year and a half, my relationship with Dr. Zeigler has evolved from me referring to her in conversation as Dr. Zeigler to Dean Dr. Overload Grand Chancellor Zeigler, since it is only polite to call her by all her titles. In addition, the initial “scariness” has evolved to respect, shown by the fact she is the only person I have or will ever shave my beard for, which I’ve had since 5th grade. Her professionalism is something everyone should strive to obtain. Our political views are on opposite ends of the spectrum, but this has only strengthened our relationship, demanding from each student as long as you can defend your ideas you will obtain her respect. In the years to come I can only hope that everyone has a Dr. Zeigler in his or her life to guide, entertain, and share wisdom, evolving him or her into better people, such as she has done with me.

-Damir Siahkoohi”

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Categories: The University

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