Shaping the future of instruction

HRSM professor eschews lectures in favor of active learning

Sandy Strick is a teacher who teaches teachers. That is, she’s one of only two faculty members in the University of South Carolina’s College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management who teaches pedagogy to the school’s doctoral students.

Her educational and classroom pedigrees, which include being named 2016 HRTM Teacher of the Year, a two-time winner of the Mortar Board Excellence in Teaching Award and 2018 Garnet Apple Award, hint at a longstanding childhood dream fulfilled. But young Sandy Strick didn’t want to be a teacher.

“I wanted to be a dietician,” she says. “But then I got to college and learned that chemistry was a big part of that. Chemistry and I did not get along. I hated it!”

She shelved her dietician dream and graduated from Miami University with a degree in home economics education and vocational food service.

As a high school teacher in inner city Cincinnati, she earned a spartan salary and had no income over the summer. “Bartending was my way out of that,” she says. It wasn’t long before her stopgap job led her to enroll in bartending school — a school where she would later become a teacher.

After earning both her master’s and doctorate at Purdue University in restaurant, hotel and institutional management, she joined the faculty at Carolina where she has taught wine and beverage classes ever since. In the past 30 years, she has become a nationally known sommelier with commendation from industry leaders including the Culinary Institute of America, the French Wine Academy and the Society of Wine Educators.

Her award-winning classroom style focuses on active learning, real-world applications and student-centered learning.

“Many of us have realized that lectures are not the best way to convey a lot of the things we deliver,” she says. “Perhaps there are some majors where the lecture is the way to convey information, but in hospitality and tourism that’s definitely not true.”

Her recipe for success is to complement meaningful learning experiences — reading articles, professional presenters, field trips, tastings, demonstrations, online forums and team-based projects — with brief lecture material and relevant support material.

But the renowned wine and winemaking instructor still draws the line at chemistry. “When we do the formula for fermentation, I tell them this is all the chemistry they’re going to get from me!” she quips.

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