Business profs win teaching honours

Oct 21st, 2021

Susan White

Business profs win teaching honours

Two professors at Memorial’s business faculty have been handed new awards for teaching excellence and innovation at Gardiner Centre.

Dr. Tom Cooper has been named the winner of the 2020 Most Innovative Instructor and Dr. Dianne Ford is the winner of the Participants’ Choice award. This is the first year that the awards have been bestowed.

Gardiner Centre is an award-winning professional development hub that connects organizations and individuals with learning experiences, such as certificate programs, team training and short courses, to advance leadership and business excellence.

“You always have to bring your 'A' game.” — Dr. Tom Cooper

Pandemic impact

Valerie Howe, the centre’s director, says the innovation award focused on the centre’s transition to a virtual learning environment during the Covid-19 pandemic. It recognizes creativity and adaptability in support of the centre’s training experience.

“Gardiner Centre learning is centered on interactive, collaborative, practical, in-person learning experiences so it was a significant challenge in 2020 when we needed to pivot to a new learning environment due to the pandemic,” she said. “Success in a virtual classroom meant our instructor team needed to step up alongside us to assure these key elements of our traditional in-person learning remained.”

“Dr. Cooper stood out as a pioneer in developing, employing and sharing new online teaching methods, and the impact and benefit for our participants was outstanding,” Ms. Howe added. “We’re so pleased to have new standard elements of excellence that can be incorporated in all virtual-led instructor training.”

‘Expectations are so high’

Dr. Cooper is a professor at the Faculty of Business Administration who researches and teaches in the areas of corporate social responsibility, entrepreneurship, business ethics, international businesses and strategy. He’s also the interim director of Memorial University’s master of business administration in social enterprise and entrepreneurship (MBA-SEE) program.

He says teaching at Gardiner Centre allows him to explore different techniques and strategies.

“Gardiner Centre is great as an instructor because the expectations are so high and the feedback is available immediately after the session. You always have to bring your 'A' game,” said Dr. Cooper. “As a result, I attempt to bring in new and innovative ways to teach and deliver training through my Gardiner Centre classes. In a number of ways, I treat it as my teaching lab where I can quickly get feedback on novel pedagogical approaches with industry practitioners and experts.”

“I'm really pleased to win the award. It demonstrates that what I am doing has some value and can be translated back into the university classroom,” he added.

The People’s Choice award was decided based on feedback from participant evaluations, specifically whether training met participant expectations and the overall value of the seminar.

“It was a great honour and surprise when I was notified that I was the recipient of the inaugural Participants’ Choice teaching award for the Gardiner Centre,” said Dr. Ford, a professor of information systems and organizational behaviour at the business faculty.

‘I’m helping make a difference’

“What I love about working with Gardiner Centre clients is that we can apply the theories and have great discussions on issues that they are facing in the moment in their workplace and professional careers,” she added. “While the participants get to continue their professional development, I get to feel like I’m helping make a difference. To me, it is a really great symbiotic relationship.”

Ms. Howe says these awards were created to recognize the quality of the learning experience offered by the centre.

“Gardiner Centre strives for excellence in our professional development and public engagement endeavours, and our instructors are an invaluable part of the team,” she said. “We have always valued their many contributions but their willingness and ability to pivot with us during the pandemic demonstrated a new level of support. Our team felt this excellence was worthy of formal recognition and it is something we will continue going forward.”

Advancing professional goals

Gardiner Centre, a professional development arm of Memorial’s business faculty, is located at the Emera Innovation Exchange, Signal Hill Campus, in St. John’s.

The centre offers over 100 practical and engaging courses and certificate programs to advance organizational and professional goals, stimulate personal growth and inspire change. Courses and programs are available for individual registration throughout the year and are designed to build and enhance knowledge and skills in a specific topic area.

Gardiner Centre also provides custom training to bring teams together for a learning experience that addresses a specific organizational need.