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Scooter Pegram calls his ‘Rate My Professors’ stardom a ‘win for the entire University’

Languages professor is ranked among the top 25 professors in the country

Tuesday Dec 02, 2014

The way Scooter Pegram, Ph.D., sees it, he is merely doing his job.

The Associate Professor of French and Minority Studies at Indiana University Northwest comes to work each day sincerely appreciative of the opportunity to share his knowledge with college students and make a difference in their lives.

“It is a really special thing,” he explains, “and I am honored and privileged to labor as a university professor. I love standing in front of a class and passing my knowledge to my students, challenging them and inspiring them to learn as much as they can in their courses and in their own time.”

Unbeknownst to Pegram, many of the students that he influences have turned to as an outlet to share their feedback about his teaching and express exactly what kind of impact he’s made in their lives. Dozens of positive reviews have been voluntarily posted by IU Northwest students, earning him the 19th spot on the recently released Top 25 University Professors in America list.

This was news to Pegram, an 11-year veteran of IU Northwest, and he only learned of his reputation when high profile publications like USA Today and Business Insider had begun to share the Top 25 news. Pegram was speechless upon learning of his celebrity status.

“I am still quite shocked by all of this recognition,” Pegram said, “I had absolutely no idea that I was under consideration for anything at all, so to say I was surprised by this sort of recognition would be a colossal understatement. I feel incredibly honored to have been noticed and ranked nationally.”

What makes Pegram so special? What about him drives students to take the extra step to provide their unsolicited feedback of their professor? With Rate My Professor, students can add their comments whenever they wish as opposed to giving their opinions on a traditional time frame immediately following their course. USA Today described Rate My Professor as a professor ranking site with more than 14 million ratings, 1.3 million professors and 7,000 schools.

Chancellor’s Professor of Sociology Charles Gallmeier, Ph.D., who serves as the president of the Faculty Organization at IU Northwest, said he was not surprised to hear of Pegram’s reputation with students.

“He is the kind of professor that really contributes to student success,” Gallmeier said. “He has this worldview of teaching that I really admire. I think he’s a great role model for the rest of us.”

Gallmeier notes that RateMyProfessor is a place where students can leave praise for their professors but also criticism. The fact that Pegram rose to the top among literally millions of reviews is really something special.

“Many professors do not pay a lot of attention to Rate My Professor,” Pegram said, “but I suppose that it does have some intrinsic value to the student when it comes to choosing whether or not to enroll in a particular course.”

Pegram’s recipe for success, it seems, is to get to know his students. He makes an effort to establish a personal connection with each one of them, something he finds helps them build confidence in the classroom. He spends time with his students outside the classroom as well, helping them become better writers and researchers.

“I really enjoy learning all about my students’ lives and backgrounds, as I can often intertwine that information into my course pedagogy to make my classes more relevant to them,” Pegram said. “Then, if you add a good dose of humor and a smile, students will learn, acquire and retain knowledge in a far more effective way.”

Gallmeier chuckled about the experience of walking across campus with Pegram.

“It could take a while to get where you are going,” Gallmeier laughed, “because he is stopped by students who want to talk with him. He is genuinely interested in each of them and truly cares about what they have to say.”

Having observed Pegram in the classroom many times, Gallmeier served as one of Pegram’s nominators when he was inducted into the Faculty Colloquium on Excellence in Teaching (FACET) some years ago. FACET is a prestigious organization that recognizes only the best faculty members throughout IU.

“He is one of the folks who was accepted the first time around and that doesn’t happen all the time,” Gallmeier said. “The competition to be accepted into FACET can be tough.”

As his students will attest, Pegram’s courses are engaging and educational in and of themselves, but it certainly doesn’t hurt that Pegram is simply a fascinating person all around.

Though his current address is in the Rogers Park neighborhood in Chicago, his “home base” as he says, is Sainte-Anne-des-Monts, Quebec in Canada. However, he identifies himself as a “global citizen,” having studied, lived and worked across North America and beyond.

Fluent in several languages and having traveled to 114 countries, Pegram calls himself “an avid and passionate traveler of the backpacker budget variety.” He enjoys listening to electronic dance music, sampling ethnic cuisine, surfing, bike riding, cooking and visiting his home in the Guatemalan rainforest. He volunteers on a number of community projects, campus committees and clubs, such as the IU Northwest chapter of the international French honor society, Pi Delta Phi.

Pegram earned his Ph.D. in sociolinguistics from Louisiana State University, his master’s degree from the University of Vermont and his undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin (Madison). His focal areas for research are French-speaking Africa, the Caribbean and Quebec. He studies language and identity, particularly among youth.

Pegram teaches French at all levels. He is particularly proud of his “showcase class” of Caribbean Studies, which he created and designed. This course introduces students to the history and culture of the islands and countries of the West Indies.

“In many ways, I am a performer, a professor, a researcher, a social worker, and a cheerleader,” Pegram said. “Perhaps my favorite thing about my job is when I attend the annual commencement ceremony and I watch my students walk across the stage after having received their diplomas. It is my hope that my students learned some important things in my course and gained all sorts of valuable skills in the classroom that they will in turn take with them as they proceed forward in their lives. If this is the case, this means that I am doing my job.”

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