21 Questions with Professor Dorothy Sprenger-Ward
Convocation, with its graduation robes and caps, diplomas being collected and sense of accomplishment that permeates the festivities, is a memorable moment. So, when Dorothy Ward’s students told her how important it was for them that she attends their convocation, it was difficult for her not to tear up. It was also a moment the Centennial College Tourism professor and program coordinator, who prides herself on igniting passion in her students, lists as one of her most unforgettable as an educator.
“I think students feel my passion for the industry in the classroom and it helps to spark theirs,” she says. “My philosophy when it comes to teaching is to make the classroom an open environment where students’ interests are at the forefront. That can’t happen through just lectures, which is why I always incorporate hands-on activities, demos and field trips into my classes. I find that students are fueled by these experiences and it allows them to more easily share their points of view as they challenge concepts and learn to think critically.”
Ward’s passion for the tourism industry began long before she was hired at Centennial in 2017. From working at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise to a stint as a flight attendant that eventually turned into a career as a flight attendant trainer at Porter Airlines, the recent Masters of Arts in Tourism Management graduate enjoyed various ventures in tourism over the years. She then decided to combine her background in tourism and in teaching by pursuing a career as a professor.
“My work training flight attendants was the entrance into teaching,” she says. “It fed into my passion for travel and made me realize that I had an equal passion for teaching. The more I taught, the more I enjoyed sharing experiences and watching students grow. These interactions became much more enjoyable than flying and I flourished.”
In an ever-changing industry such as tourism, Ward, who also serves as a mentor to students in the School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts, says working in an institution that fosters a supportive environment allows her to be adaptable in how and what she teaches. For example, Ward says with the industry currently emphasizing responsible tourism and Indigenous tourism, she is incorporating both into her teaching. The latter is being expanded to six weeks of focus compared to a previous two, thanks to Ward’s collaborative work with a colleague who also recognized the need to broaden the scope of the topic. In fact, it was this type of sharing an environment that made Ward want to work at Centennial in the first place.
“Everyone is interested in each other’s programs and students’ success,” she says. “Even the Chair of the School is so supportive and I wasn’t expecting that. When you take an idea to her, you end up having to catch up to her because she’s off and running with it so quickly. As a teacher, that is amazing for your development, which then benefits your students.”
Written by: Izabela Szydlo