Mystery master

It’s all about mysteries for Rick Long, the university’s newest master teacher.

"The world is a mysterious place and we need to make sense of it," said Long, professor in the Department of Human Resources and Organizational Behaviour and Hanlon Scholar in International Business in the Edwards School of Business. "Learning needs to be about solving those mysteries."

So Long approaches each course he teaches as an opportunity to solve mysteries, asking his students questions like, have you ever wondered why…?

"Of course they need to be mysteries that they students care about," said Long, who received the university's highest teaching award at fall convocation. "You need to care about why we need to know this, what it will help us explore or understand, and how it will inform our future."

Beyond the mystery component, Long said he always uses PEP—partnership, engagement and participation—in the classroom.

"For learning to be enjoyable rather than a painful struggle, it needs to be a partnership between the students and the teacher, who needs to create opportunities for engagement and participation by the students in applying concepts."

One of Long's more infamous courses—both for the rigorous workload and for the level of student engagement and fun— is on compensation.

"That course is a real SOB," said Long with a laugh, adding that he has heard that it is about three times the amount of work as other courses. "But to make it fun, I have made the TV show Survivor the theme of the course. The students work in teams to outwit, outplay and out-compensate each other."

The concept of PEP is one that is woven throughout the university's Learning Charter and that's not surprising considering that Long was chair of the university's teaching and learning committee during that document's development.

"I think the Learning Charter is the only one of its kind in Canada that outlines the goals, roles, rights and responsibilities for the students, instructors and the university related to teaching and learning. I'm really proud of that document," said Long, who has been at the U of S for 37 years and admitted he never intended on becoming a university professor.

"I grew up in Alberta; I was going to be an oilman," recalled Long, who was convinced by one of his professors to pursue an MBA following his undergrad degree.

Certainly no regrets on the career choice, Long said. "From my point of view, I'm always learning. I learn from students, I learn from my research, I learn from my colleagues. It involves so much learning on my part, but it doesn't get any better than when it ‘clicks' for students. That is a gratifying experience."

There is, however, one mystery that Long is having a tough time solving.

"It's kind of a mystery that I received the Master Teacher Award. There are so many excellent and deserving teachers on campus. I was surprised. Excited, but surprised."

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