Sarah Peterson Pursues Passion for Student-Centered Learning at The University of Olivet
Sarah Peterson devoted years to pursuing an editing career, only to realize that it wasn’t what she dreamed it would be. “That was the career I always thought was meant for me; however, I soon discovered that there is a lot more to it than reading and editing, and I did not enjoy the other facets of the job,” said Dr. Peterson.
Originally from Lansing, Michigan, Dr. Peterson received her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and then immediately began working toward a master’s degree in English rhetoric at the University of Indianapolis in preparation for a career in editing. “I worked for a couple of different publishing organizations, including a company that specialized in non-fiction work and a larger agency in New York City that covered all sorts of publications. I loved editing and working with authors as they developed their work,” she said. However, she found that editing wasn’t the career for her after all, and Dr. Peterson moved back to Michigan and began teaching writing.
“First week in, I knew I was meant to be in higher education. I loved helping students, as it mirrored my work with authors, but I also loved curriculum development, faculty relations, and the environment of continued education where learning is the focal point,” Dr. Peterson expressed.
After gaining some teaching experience, Dr. Peterson pursued other institutions, and The University of Olivet hired her as a writing adjunct professor. Her favorite thing about teaching at UOlivet? The students. She said, “They are the highlight of the teaching experience.”
Dr. Peterson loves helping students realize that writing is more than a class they must suffer through to meet a requirement, where all they do is read something and write about it. “I love breaking down those perceptions and creating an environment of learning through discovery and expression. Writing is not a reiteration or structured process. It is an area that is very specific to the writer, and each student can be a writer; they just have to find what works for them and what they are interested in. Olivet is special that way because it is an environment that supports each student as an individual, not a number on a roster. Students come to learn who they are, who they can be, and who they want to be, and writing is one way to discover that. That is what I love seeing in my classes – students becoming writers,” explained Dr. Peterson.
After teaching as an adjunct at Olivet for two years, Dr. Peterson pursued a doctorate in educational technology and online learning. She knew that if she planned to remain in higher education, it would be to her benefit to pursue a Ph.D. “I decided to pursue a doctorate in Educational Technology and Online Learning simply because I had the experience teaching in this format, and I enjoyed learning and using the technology. Once I honed in on an education program at Regent University specializing in Educational Technology and Online Learning, Olivet ended up supporting that decision and hired me as a full-time faculty member as well as director of distance education and online learning. With the completion of my doctorate and the institutional pursuit of more distance education programs, I was promoted to the assistant dean for distance education.”
As assistant dean for distance education, Dr. Peterson focuses on curriculum, instructional design and technologies needed for online learning. So far, she has created an online quality assurance review process and a manageable plan for coordinating relationship-based learning online.
“My work is now half teaching and half online learning, which is incredibly fortunate because I found a passion in both. I enjoy working with students and seeing them grow, but I also enjoy working with faculty, designing online platforms, and developing distance education policies,” said Dr. Peterson.
Whether in the classroom or developing an online learning program, it’s ensuring a student-centered learning environment that remains her passion and focus. “I spent this past year working on a process to develop, review, and launch online programs, and I am very proud of what we have created. We now have a clear process for development that includes an identity of ‘blended online learning,’ which encompasses relationship-based learning, asynchronous learning, student-student interaction, and student-professor interaction to create a quality online learning experience. We also have a review process that ensures our online programs have aligned curriculum, accessible content, and an online experience that ensures all our students receive a quality education. The best part is that the launch of these programs comes from our faculty through their experience and knowledge and reflects their commitment to our student body,” she said.
Working in higher education may not have been the career path Dr. Peterson saw herself on, but she found her calling at The University of Olivet. She said, “My entire career in higher education has really advanced here at Olivet, and they gave me the opportunity to delve into this new area of education. I really appreciate how they supported my pursuit of this career.”
Learn more about The University of Olivet by contacting the Office of Admission at 800-456-7189 or admissions@UOlivet.edu.