Stephen Pett, associate professor of English, takes his students farther than the doors of Ross Hall. He takes them halfway around the world.
In the past six years, Pett has taken two creative writing classes to Ireland and one class to New Mexico. The three-week trip to Ireland included visits to five different venues.
Students stayed at a Native American preparatory school and explored national parks, native communities and a poetry festival while in New Mexico, he said.
Reading native literature and responding to it and the trip were methods used for evaluating class performance.
Plans for future trips are in the works, Pett said. "I'm thinking about [teaching a class] on nature writing and traveling up through the Boundary Waters," he said.
Students learn the most from experiencing the places and cultures they read about, Pett said.
"I don't think I've ever been through classes with students that seem to affect them more profoundly because [taking a trip] is such a comprehensive way of engaging the material," he said. "You're reading, meeting people, moving through a landscape and sharing [the experience] with classmates who then help you put it in context and use it."
Pett said he was thrilled the value of his courses was recognized when he first heard he'd been selected as a master teacher.
Sadja, program assistant at the University Book Store, remembered the "shared symbiotic relationship" she had with Pett as an undergraduate in his class. After working at the University Book Store for several years, Sadja heard about Pett's trip to New Mexico and decided to take up writing again.
"It gave me the opportunity to focus on my writing in a very unique environment," she said. "[Pett] incorporated the environment and culture into the readings."
Sadja said being surrounded by the landscape in New Mexico helped her focus on her writing.
"There are certain kinds of teachers who can do this kind of thing, and Steve is that person," she said. "When [he] teaches, he has a way of connecting with the students on a person-to-person level. He learns things from us too."