Education was not something Terry Lowe, an instructional assistant professor at Illinois State University, initially thought to pursue as a career, but it has proven to be an area in which he excels.
His passion, hard work and dedication were honored Wednesday, January 8, at the Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology’s (CTLT) annual Teaching & Learning Symposium. Lowe, who works in the College of Business’ Management and Quantitative Methods Department, was one of three educators honored for excellence in the classroom. He received the Outstanding University Teaching Non-Tenured Track Award, while cello professor Dr. Adriana Ransom and communication professor Dr. Joseph Zompetti took top honors among the tenured track faculty.
Dr. Roberta Trites, interim MQM department chair, is not surprised that Lowe was recognized for his high caliber performance in the classroom. She explained that he “stands as a model to everyone who teaches at ISU” and spoke highly of both his character and effectiveness as an educator.
“He embodies the highest principles of Elevate, Educate, Connect,” she continued, “and he has a significant impact on student learning, student retention, student experiences outside of the classroom and alumni relations. He is kind, generous, self-disciplined, organized, thorough, fair and gracious.”
Lowe is himself a Redbird graduate. He earned a bachelor’s in Business Administration in 1972 and a MBA in 1977. Having come “full circle” by returning to his alma mater as a professor, he is enjoying the opportunity to give back to a place that gave so much to him. He described the COB as a “very supportive” environment and spoke well of the “high level of collegiality” that exists between students and teachers.
He came to work at ISU in 2006 following a career in the insurance industry, and at the onset, his appointment was meant to be what he described as “a very short term stay.” When the door opened for him to extend his time on campus, he decided to make teaching his “second act.” Fourteen yeas later, he is still glad to have made the transition to full-time work as an educator. Serving in the classroom has proven to be a good fit and utilizes many of the skills he developed while training adults in the workforce.
“I think (a desire to teach) has always been there, but I didn’t realize it. When I look back now, I gravitated toward education and training in industry, and I just enjoy helping people discover new facts and new awarenesses that they didn’t have before,” he said before describing working with students as “very meaningful” and “very fulfilling.”
The Outstanding University Teaching Award recognized Lowe for his innovative approach to the classroom.
Speaking of his teaching style, the educator said, “I came from an industry where we did not lecture, and we did not use very many PowerPoints. It was all very much active learning, and I just naturally brought that with me. I try to use a big variety of learning tools and recognize there are many different learning styles, so in any one course I try to have a lot of various ways that students can learn and experience the material.”
For his own part, he continues to be a student of best teaching practices and the educational process. He regular attends workshops through CTLT as well as online professional development training platforms. The instructor tries to stay current on devices, software and apps that can enrich his classroom and explained that his students help him keep abreast of advances in technology.
“Working with young people keeps me energized and connected to the changing world. They teach me a lot, and I like being their student,” he observed.
One way in which he tries to incorporate current technology is by welcoming devices in his classroom. He also has adopted a hybrid format for many of his courses.
“I still want to try to embrace new, proven learning methods, but I also don’t want to let go of the tried and true ways that we know we all learn best with,” Lowe said as he described the importance of keeping a balance between trends in technology and not losing sight of the value of face to face contact in the classroom.
Lowe also places an emphasis on helping his students hone their communication skills through writing assignments and speaking requirements in group presentations.
“We keep reading that students are losing or never really have the opportunity to develop soft skills so I’m constantly looking for assignments where I can insert critical thinking, decision making, interactions and teamwork because I know employers are saying that’s lacking,” he added.
Over the years, Lowe has taught a variety of courses including management, organizational behavior, human resource management and development, management of employee benefits, and small business management and entrepreneurship. He enjoys the variety, noting, “It challenges me. It’s stretched me to stay current in several different disciplines.”
In addition to teaching, Lowe embraces service opportunities on campus, such as being as the faculty advisor for the professional business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi and serving on the University’s Academic Freedom, Ethics and Grievance Committee. He also is actively involved in the Means Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, having recently served as its interim director, and helps with the annual Startup Showcase event. The educator noted such experiences help keep him “plugged into the bigger picture at ISU.”
“I have found that mixing service with teaching has helped me, I think, be a better teacher,” he concluded.