Giving Back: De Werd Faculty Fellowship Benefits Students by Inspiring Educators to Be Impactful

Portrait of Tim Ridout, Taryn Stanko, and Jack Wroldson.

The De Werd Faculty Fellowship encourages faculty to have a strong impact on students. Some of the past winners include, left to right, Tim Ridout, Taryn Stanko, and Jack Wroldson.

Written by May 27, 2022

When Cal Poly alumnus Tim Ridout returned to campus to teach accounting in 2016, he initially walked across Dexter Lawn with a “big, silly grin.”

“It felt great to be back,” he said.

While it had been more than two decades since he’d cruised Dexter as a business student, Ridout remembered how his own Cal Poly education had prepared him for a successful career in finance and accounting. And, as a teacher, he wanted to share that Learn by Doing approach with his students while also showing exactly how that helped his career.

“I knew what resonated with me in college and learning in industry,” he said.

His energetic Learn by Doing teaching style, which emphasizes student engagement plus personal and relevant stories, has earned him two de Werd Faculty Fellowship awards.

The fellowship, which continues this year, is sponsored by Jourdi de Werd, a Cal Poly alumnus and president of de Werd Capital Partners. Wanting to support faculty who have a strong impact on students, de Werd awards two members $10,000 apiece annually. Uniquely, the recipients are nominated by student ambassador leaders.

“I grew up playing ‘school’ with my four siblings, and I was always the teacher, so teaching has always been a passion of mine,” said Trisha Daughtrey, another recipient and accounting lecturer. “Knowing the de Werd award comes from student ambassador nominations tells me I’m doing something right with what I love. My students are my priority, and I make sure they know that and that they all have a voice in my classroom.”

Now in its fourth year, the fellowship has offered faculty inspiration and motivation to go above and beyond to help their students thrive, said past recipient Sharon Dobson.

“Since 2018, the award has fostered an atmosphere of creativity to develop innovative ways to prepare career-ready graduates through experiential learning,” said Dobson, who lectures in accounting, finance and marketing. “Receiving the award has inspired me to continue to improve myself as a teacher to live up to the high standards that the award embodies.”

Portrait of Trisha Daughtrey and Sharon Dobson.

Trisha Daughtrey, left, and Sharon Dobson, said the De Werd fellowship has inspired faculty and fostered an atmosphere of creativity.

While the fellowship rewards faculty financially, it also has a ripple effect that positively impacts students, said Taryn Stanko, associate professor of management.

“I think the de Werd Award in the long run has the potential to build a powerful, positive feedback loop, whereby faculty who deeply engage with their students to help them grow are recognized for their efforts, and this recognition can be one force to help faculty remain inspired and motivated for years to come,” she said. “The more we can do to help our faculty feel visible and valued, the more positive energy in turn our faculty will have to circle back and give to our audience.”

Ridout remembers how excellent faculty benefitted him as a student. While working his way through college, he accepted a six month co-op as a financial analyst with Walt Disney Imagineering. Because Cal Poly prepared him well, he said, he took on that early role with confidence.

“I took these financial concepts that I learned and started applying them to a real company,” he said.

Now, he realizes how he can use his background and experiences to help other students.

Ridout “shares his ample industry experience and makes it clear how what we learn in the classroom applies to the real world,” wrote nominating ambassador Sami Von Gober.

Other students commended him for keeping lectures lively and going above and beyond.

To share some of the tactics that have had an impact on students, the fellowship recipients have offered two workshops to other faculty.

“Doing the workshop was a great opportunity to meet with faculty, discuss teaching techniques, and learn from each other,” said Jack Wroldsen, an assistant professor and past fellowship recipient.

Wroldson said his teaching focuses on real-world skills and inductive, critical thinking – lessons he learned himself.

“As I prepared for the workshop, I realized that I plagiarize egregiously, and nothing I do in the classroom is unique,” he said, adding that feedback he received after the workshop helped his teaching even further. “Multiple people shared insights that helped me improve as a teacher, so I plagiarized some more.”

Greg Steinberger, a marketing lecturer who attended, said it was helpful to learn from others’ success.

“Like every field, teaching continues to evolve and change, especially the last few years,” he said.

The sessions helped build camaraderie among faculty, he said, while helping faculty learn, grow and evolve.

“Each speaker offered tips that I have adopted,” Steinberger said. “As a result, my Canvas is easier for students to follow, in-class participation is up, and I am engaging with students better.”

For Ridout, like de Werd, the ultimate goal, is to help students succeed.

“To me it is all about the students. That is why I am here. I’m a Cal Poly grad that’s giving back to my university,” he said.

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