Associate Sociology Professor Diane Rodgers keeps her approach to students very simple.
“It’s all about them,” Rodgers explained. “The students at NIU are fantastic. They are very dedicated. The majority of them are very serious about giving back to the community. That makes me want to be better. They are inspirational to me.”
Since joining the university in 2006, Rodgers has used that motivation as a guide for her classroom style which mixes old-school lecture and direction with the opportunity for students to be creative and take ownership of how they learn. That includes having students do things in class, such as playing the role of theorists in skits and speeches, to provide a hands-on component.
Rodgers’ overall view of guiding students is based on the idea that “teaching and mentoring are connected.” Her collective body of work recently earned her an Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award, recognition she said is significant because of the role students play in the process. Their praise in nominating letters highlights Rodgers many contributions to their college years and beyond.
Aaron Sterchi teaches social studies at Freeport High School. He recalled how Rodgers contributed to his “ah-ha” moment when, as a student, he wrote a paper that he felt had value to the sociology field.
“I can honestly say that it was her guidance that helped me achieve that first moment where I felt like I could ‘do’ sociology – not just learn about it,” he said.
Sam Ehret, who took several classes with Rodgers, said Rodgers’ unexpected help outside the classroom with graduate school planning showed a deep level of commitment and dedication.
“Dr. Rodgers is well known among the students for having an exciting and fun classroom. She is always finding ways to make learning enjoyable and she always has the attention of everyone in the room,” Ehret said. “She also loves to challenge her students to go outside their comfort zone and to achieve all they can.
“Dr. Rodgers has been, and continues to be, one of the most influential professors I’ve had. I would not be who I am today without her encouragement, guidance and dedication,” Ehret added.