Inspiring teacher: Stephenson Beck, associate professor of communication
Published January 2016
Stephenson Beck is associate professor of communication and director of graduate studies for his department. His courses and research focus on how groups of people manage conflict and make decisions.
How did you decide to pursue your profession?
I originally had aspirations to become a sportscaster, but it became clear to me that I wanted to do something more, something that mattered and something that influenced others for good. Becoming a professor allows me to do exactly that – I educate wonderful young students and conduct research on topics I believe to be important for society.
What do you like best about teaching?
I'm a big believer in interaction. I love to push my students, and to be pushed back as well.
How would you describe your teaching style?
Students need to be a little uncomfortable, a little vulnerable to truly learn. So my approach is to put students on the spot. I try to place them in circumstances where they have to wrestle and figure things out. I also believe students need to overcome their fear of failure. The classroom is a safe environment to explore and fail. I regularly tell my students to go for it and if you are going to fail, to fail gloriously. That is simply part of the learning experience.
What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome as a teacher?
I tend to get too excited sometimes – it is my inner nerd shining through. So often while I'm teaching I remind myself to be patient and let the learning experience evolve.
How do you know you’ve succeeded with a student or a class?
Engagement equals success. Student learning increases exponentially when students participate, and through their participation a professor can see evidence of learning.
What advice do you have to be a successful student?
Be proactive. Be ahead of the game, ahead on the reading. Figure out what you want to learn, and don't be spoon-fed information.
Beck joined the NDSU faculty in 2008. He earned his bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism at Brigham Young University Provo, Utah; his master's degree in speech communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and his doctorate in communication studies at the University of Kansas, Lawrence.