The audience in the President’s Dining Room was engrossed Tuesday as Janis Dietz, professor of business administration, shared stories of the dedication and integrity she learned while teaching at the University of La Verne.
The talk, “My Last Lecture: Lessons from 21 Years of Learning from Students,” was part of the faculty lecture series.
Dietz will retire after 21 years of teaching full time but will continue to teach business administration classes at the University as an adjunct professor.
“We must trust (our students), because they will make us proud,” Dietz said. “We need to trust our students. This whole issue of TurnItIn.com or SafeAssign.com, we’ve got to trust them and tell them that we trust them. Also because they’re paying our Social Security.”
The audience was filled with Dietz’s friends and colleagues, including President Devorah Lieberman and her husband Roger Auerbach.
“Her sense of honesty and humility truly raised her as a leader that the rest of us considered a role model for the entire campus,” Lieberman said. “I am delighted that she will continue teaching as an adjunct professor at the University. She makes our students better and they, in turn, make us better.”
Dietz is looking forward to continuing to teach as an adjunct professor and plans to volunteer in her free time, maybe with the Kiwanis Club.
Instead of listing her accomplishments as a professor, Dietz concentrated on what her students, colleagues and mentors taught her.
She shared her lessons in short phrases, easy for the audience to remember.
“You always learn something,” Dietz said.
She went on to describe her experience at her first job as a secretary when she was 21 years old. Dietz graduated with a degree in English with honors, yet she only made $95 a week. Her then supervisor taught her that there is always something to be learned in every experience.
She said she appreciated her job for what it taught her.
Dietz brought the audience to a chuckle when she mentioned RateMyProfessor.com, a popular website for college students to rate their professor’s helpfulness.
On the website, students have the option to include in their rating a chili pepper to imply the professor’s attractiveness.
Dietz jokes with her students that she will never get a chili pepper, but her students all made her a plaque and signed it in gratitude.
It is more important to be a helpful and accessible teacher, Dietz said.
“A chili pepper is not all that important,” Dietz said.
As a professor, Dietz found the most challenging aspect of teaching are students who are in college only for the degree.
“The biggest challenge is students who don’t really want to learn something, they just want the piece of paper,” Dietz said. “For them I haven’t overcome it. All I can do is do my best and give them my best.”
Julia Wheeler, director of church and interfaith relations, said Dietz was inspiring.
“Not only is she a repository of good practical knowledge, she is a person like a straight arrow,” Wheeler said. “Her words, her actions and her heart are all in alignment. She’s like a straight arrow and teaches that to kids.”
Vanessa Oceguera can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.