The Alumni Association is honoring 26 NC State professors with the 2014 Faculty Awards for their outstanding work in the classroom, in the laboratory and in the field. We talked (via email) with some of the recipients about their work and the keys to being a successful professor.
Today we’re visiting with Lori M. Petrovich, a teaching assistant professor of chemistry. Petrovich is one of eight professors being recognized with Outstanding Teaching Awards.
What prompted you to become a professor? I initially tried to avoid becoming a professor because I didn’t think I had the necessary personality or skills. My nickname in high school was “Mouse.” I always studied for tests alone, was never comfortable presenting and didn’t seek out teaching experience in graduate school. After six years of working in the chemical manufacturing industry and three children, my job was consuming my life choices. A downsizing provided me with the opportunity to re-evaluate my goals. A community college was willing to hire me for a semester of teaching one course and it was wonderful. I got to know the students, their career dreams, and explain to them how knowledge of chemistry would support those goals. Moving from a small community college course to a large class at NC State was very daunting, but the rewards are the same. Interactions with students have encouraged me to continue teaching and to aspire to provide a better class experience.
What are the keys to being a successful professor? My daily challenge is to communicate to students how interesting, useful and exciting chemistry is AND to do so in an organized way that defines the course expectations and promotes learning in a large class size. Multiple approaches are used. Lecture has live demonstrations, videos and posed questions which students solve together. The online course content has daily lecture notes posted along with links to explanatory videos, self-administered worksheets, studying tips and practice exams. Homework and recitation problems complete the opportunities for mastery. I help operate the Chemistry Tutorial Center, where students can drop in for tutoring from a chemistry graduate student and also supervise the General Chemistry Lab Program, where students apply course concepts in the laboratory. I am fortunate to be a professor at NC State where colleagues, the Office of Faculty Development and DELTA have all provided training in new teaching technologies and methods that have dramatically improved my instructional skills. Every semester, the classroom content is refined and supporting content is added to the website.
What gives you the greatest satisfaction as a professor? I am so pleased to see my students succeed, in small ways by applying a chemical principle correctly and in large ways by graduating with a degree from NC State and moving forward to professional school or a career. It’s also thrilling when they help me discover a better way to explain concepts or recognize a way that chemistry is applied in their chosen field of study.