Faculty Excellence Awards

The Orfalea College of Business is full of experienced, dedicated faculty. And great faculty deserve recognition. Jourdi de Werd, 1980 Cal Poly graduate, wanted to make sure that when a faculty member goes above and beyond it comes with a reward. The de Werd Faculty Award for Impact on Student Success winners are selected by Orfalea Student Ambassadors for their exemplary contribution to student learning.

Tim Ridout

Tim Ridout is an Orfalea College of Business alumnus (Financial Management & Accounting ’93) who spent 16 years in the Silicon Valley during the dot-com boom and bust and the web 2.0 era, helping tech companies scale for rapid growth. In 2009, he returned to the Central Coast and worked as a financial and administrative executive in clean-tech, then agriculture before taking an opportunity to teach at Cal Poly in 2016. Now, he finds joy in passing on his knowledge to current Business and Accounting students.


Q: This award is presented to faculty who “significantly impact student learning.” What does “impact student learning” mean to you?

First and foremost, it’s about effectively conveying the content so that students don’t just know it, but so they can use it. Content in the classes I teach is relevant for future business leaders, so the students need to learn it, not just memorize. I strive to teach students broad concepts deeply, then use real scenarios from my professional experience to show how those concepts play out. Lectures are good for general principles, but application (for me, using in-class exercises) is essential for deep comprehension. If a student can take a concept, apply it in real life, and retain it, then I’ve positively impacted that student’s learning.

Q: The de Werd Award recipients are chosen by students. How does it feel to be recognized by Orfalea students?

As a Cal Poly and Orfalea alum, it’s an honor to even have the opportunity to teach here and use my career experience to give back to my university and these amazing students. The fact that students appreciate and see value in my teaching takes an already enormous honor to the next level. I’m very humbled to have been selected.

Q: How would you describe your teaching style?

Definitely active. I like to keep everyone engaged. No one gets to be anonymous in my class. I like to mix things up, tell stories, tell jokes, move around the room during exercises, get them working in groups. In a two-hour class, lecture only goes so far, so I’m always thinking about how I can keep the day’s experience relevant and everyone in the room actively engaged with the material.

Q: What do you do in your free time?

I mostly spend time with my wife, two young kids and our 8-year-old golden retriever. We stay pretty active and we are very outdoorsy. Every summer we load up our RV and hit the road to explore somewhere we’ve never been for a few weeks. I’m a lifelong surfer, so I try to surf a few days a week. And I play basketball at the rec center, so some of my students have a chance to get back at me for the high expectations I have for them, all the homework I assign, and my lengthy, robust exams.

Q: What’s something about you that your students or colleagues might not know?

I got a late start in college, at a junior college when I was 21. Then, I transferred to Cal Poly at age 23. At that time, I was wondering whether I had what it took and if I belonged, and it turns out I did. So, I always try to encourage my students, especially transfer students, that they have what it takes. If I could do it, then they can do it. But, success takes both intelligence and diligent effort. One without the other doesn’t go very far. Use plenty of both and you will be just fine.

Q: This award is presented to faculty who “significantly impact student learning.” What does “impact student learning” mean to you?

I am first and foremost an educator, so I prioritize the quality delivery of curriculum material. But while content is important, extending a student’s experience into broader social contexts is too. Whether I’m teaching Finance or Marketing, I challenge my students to view the subject material as active societal forces. My classes typically have 60+ students, but I try to personalize the experience for each one, often through group work, where they get intimate peer-to-peer interaction.

Q: What types of experiences would you tell students to expect in your classes?

Participation! I encourage class partici-pation through incentive-reward struc-tures like “Snap Bucks,” fake money they can redeem for rewards. By utilizing innovative award structures, I make participation academically rewarding and fun. I frequently host Orfalea’s Executives in Residence to speak, and I relate each guest executive’s background to what we’re studying. Plus, I love to incorporate current events into class discussion and award “Snap Bucks” to students who can effectively connect them to subject material.

Q: How do you challenge your students?

I want each student to have a rich and well-rounded college experience, so I challenge them to supplement in-class learning with outside involvement. I serve on the Cal Poly Arts Advisory Board, and I’m executive director of the Opera San Luis Obispo. I emphasize to students that, although OperaSLO is an arts organization, its success entails the application of finance, marketing, accounting, etc., and I encourage participation in artistic experiences to help them become more creative and innovative.

Q: What else do you do in your free time?

Outside of my position with OperaSLO, I try to be involved in as many student organizations as possible. I’m faculty advisor for the business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi and TEDx San Luis Obispo. I’m a regular participant in fitness classes at the Cal Poly Rec Center and encourage students to do the same. The in-class learning activities in the BUS 342 Finance class I teach are called “Get Fiscally Fit.” I even hold extra office hours and special study groups in the Rec. Center lobby for a more relaxed environment.

Q: What’s something else you’re passionate about?

Since 1996, I’ve been involved in the Cal Poly Cat Program. This dedicated group of Cal Pol faculty, staff, students and local residents manages the campus cat population. Through a campus cat shelter and veterinary care, we ensure that our campus cat population is controlled and healthy. These campus-dwelling cats play a vital role in rodent control. Early in their interactions with me, my students discover that I am an ardent cat lover who ‘owns’ several cats in addition to caring for the CP Cat Program felines. I always find cat lovers among my students, and I emphasize to them the value of participation in service learning projects like this one.

Sharon Dobson

Sharon Dobson has over twenty years of lecturing experience in Accounting, Finance and Marketing, but stays busy outside of class too. She’s the executive director of the Opera San Luis Obispo, where she creates and facilitates the nationally-recognized company’s annual budget and marketing plan. When she’s not in class or managing the opera, she’s advising student groups, taking fitness classes or caring for the campus cat population through her role as executive director of the Cal Poly Cat Program.


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