Five Minutes with Sarah Peterson: Helping Students Succeed from Anywhere

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Sarah Peterson serves as assistant professor of writing and director of online learning and distance education at The University of Olivet. With a passion for reading, writing and grammar, Professor Peterson originally shaped her career around publishing before realizing that teaching was her true calling. Since discovering her passion, Professor Peterson has continued her own education, pursuing a doctorate in online learning and technologies. Through her current roles, she is excited to be helping students succeed — in the classroom and everywhere else, too!

Why do you love The University of Olivet?

I love Olivet because of the people here, especially the student body. I enjoy the ability to create close relationships with my students and help them grow as writers and critical thinkers.

What is your favorite memory from your time at OC?

My favorite memory just happened this past fall. I went into a meeting with our 2019 graduating class and I realized I knew several of the seniors; they were part of my first classes here at Olivet. Talking with them and feeling their excitement about their upcoming graduation was gratifying.

Where does your passion for teaching stem from?

I didn’t want to be a teacher originally. Several people in my family had mentioned they thought I’d be good at it, but I resisted the notion. However, when it was practically forced on me I realize how ridiculous my resistance was. That first class I taught was a writing class and the students were all nervous freshmen. We did a writing activity about their expectations and desires from my class, as well as from school in general, and their responses humbled me. I realized I’d be able to make an impact on generations of students simply by letting them express themselves.

What is your teaching style like?

I believe writing is both an individual and group activity, so I try to foster classes that are communities. I like open discussion, opposing opinions and critical analysis, so several of my classes center around a discussion of students’ writing or topics they are researching. Often our discussions will get off the original topic but that’s the joy of learning with each other, and I embrace the different paths students’ interests take us.

What’s the average day in your role, or some of the unique things you are responsible for?

Since I’m both a professor and a director, my days and tasks continually change. In distance education, we are continuing to build our programs and create a new community of Olivet students. With that comes several different developmental projects that I work on, while still focusing on my main task of teaching students. Because of this, no two days are the same.

One item I’m incredibly proud of is the work I do in the summer with the Olivet Opportunity (O2) Program for incoming freshmen. Seeing these same students come in the fall after having completed the program in the summer is a proud moment for both the students and myself. I’m also enjoying working with my peers to utilize Blackboard more in the classroom, as it’s a great resource for both instructors and students.

Why do you encourage students to attend OC?

OC gives students an experience several other schools are unable to, mostly due to the close relationships professors and students establish. These connections can help a student, not only through their time at Olivet, but also in their working career. The Olivet experience is something I’d encourage any high school senior to consider.

What do you look forward to in your role?

I’m looking forward to continuing my work with freshmen and to see more of my students graduate. I’m also excited to see how OC’s online programs and distance education programs grow and to see the new student body we develop from those programs.

What advice do you share with students and alumni?

My advice to students would be to find a place for yourself; establish connections, friends, relationships with professors, and get engaged in the different programs and organizations Olivet offers. This will not only make you enjoy and value your time here, but it will also help you accomplish your goals and to ensure those goals are the right path for you. As a professor, I know we can sometimes seem intimidating but we really want to help you succeed and will help you if we are able. Creating those types of relationships and connections will make OC your home.

What is an interesting or little-known fact about yourself?

I studied at the University of Cambridge in England one summer and the experience solidified my love of literature.

Check out The University of Olivet, including online learning opportunities and the writing program, by scheduling a campus visit and/or applying. Contact the Office of Admissions at 800.456.7189 or admissions@uolivet.edu with questions.


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